After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Not Just Argentine Tango Anymore...

The other night I observed something scary at a traditional milonga. For years foreigners have been landing in Buenos Aires and trying to do their fancy stage steps at milongas; that's what their local teachers, Argentine or not, have been teaching to popular demand. Tango shows tour the world and are on TV, so in other countries, "Argentine tango" is "stage tango" with lots of ganchos, volcadas, high voleos, and saltas. Then dancers come here and have to learn to walk, keep their feet on the floor, and to do navigational floorcraft, often for the first time. Milongueros wouldn't permit their partners to do adornos and leg wraps. And how foreign ladies love to do adornos!

Local tangueros have always enjoyed dancing with the tango tourists who descend seasonally on Buenos Aires. It's a change, different energy, with always the hope of a invitation to visit them in their home country, a quick aventura, or at the very least, a dinner invitation to a nice restaurant.

But now some of the porteños and porteñas want to learn the tango that the foreigners bring with them! Oh lackaday! In Nuevo Chique last week I saw an old milonguero dancing with a young foreign woman and leading her into big sweeping moves never seen on that dance floor outside of a performance. There was no room to dance that way, and he didn't do it well. But I could tell he was trying to keep up with what tango tourists liked to dance. Since then, a friend told me that a milonguero she knows is taking lessons from young teachers to learn the moves popular with foreigners.

To me, it can be a vicious circle of watching, teaching, learning, dancing show-off tango instead of emotional, connected, musical, improvised tango. A slippery slope.

While not in Chique but in a milonga in Brazil, here is a video of an older man dancing to Tango for Evora; I can't help but feel how much happier he and his partner would be dancing to Calo in estilo milonguero, where the music is king and the embrace is the thing. Still, the important point is that they are dancing!

(Painting above by Jan Rae.)


Anonymous said...

I am sorry Cheri. I don't think that the important thing is that they are dancing. I would rather not dance if I can't dance the way I really want to. (I can dance large and sometimes do, but only to new Tango music and if there is enough room for it. One song is almost as long as one tanda!)

tangocherie said...

I personally agree with you, London.

But I still think it's better for folks, especially older ones, to dance that to vege in front of the TV or whatever, no matter what dance they choose to do.

Ron Weigel Urbana IL said...


This is shocking! Tango for export has been imported back into Argentina!

At Chique no less. Don't tell me Dany Borelli was the DJ who played the non-tango and mislabeled 'Tango for Evora'. Playing imported music invites imported dancing.

It's sad to think that some Argentines respect their own dance so little that they let foreigners set the standards. Buenos Aires is the birthplace of tango but I hope it doesn't become Tango Disneyland.


tangocherie said...

No, no, Dany would never play anything but traditional tango music. I took this video at a milonga in Brazil last month, not Chique. I'll clarify that in the post.

But it was in Chique last Thursday that I saw another older guy trying to lead "nuevo" moves with his young foreign partner. And suddenly lots of things came together and clicked in my head--but not in a good way.

Yup, tango for export is being imported to BsAs! Pretty shocking is right!

shirley said...

Hola Tango Cherie, I am not one of the foreigners that you are talking about but one that has recently spent time in Buenos Aires learning from an Argentinian that has taught the basics, no fancy kicks etc and has made me become a better dancer , I am trying to eradicate this problem in my homeland, Australia ,so I understand your concern . I explain this is showtime and no need on the dance floor . I enjoy the wonderful dance the way it is and will continue to perfect the the dance you all love and protect.You have my support

Anonymous said...

What's Wrong With Our Tango

by Linda Valentino from Los Angeles

tangocherie said...

Thank you for posting this link from 2000--
some things never change.