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.)