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.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Futuro Tango

 Last night in the milonga Nuevo Chique, a group of kids on their winter break from Comodoro Rivadavia (very south of Buenos Aires)  danced an exhibition, showing indeed, that the "future of tango" is bright. Well dressed, well danced, with a lot of respect--bravo Futuro Tango!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Critique the Beginning of My Memoir

Painting of my tango shoes by Mexican artist Santiago Corral
Please help me by critiquing the beginning of my memoir, The Church of Tango:  Death, Dance, Destiny

by reading the first chapter here and commenting:
Create Space Preview

Be honest. I appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Lots of time is spent discussing and arguing in English over various terminology in tango--especially by Americans, and especially on the internet via tango blogs or tango mailing lists.

What style is danced: nuevo, apilado, orillero, Villa Urquiza, del centro, club, milonguero, de salon? To me it's like the monks in the Middle Ages arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

When students are learning a new move, the men often ask, what is the name for this? The tangueros of Buenos Aires don't worry about the names of things--is it ocho cortado, ocho milonguero, or ocho arrepentido? What is important is only how you dance the movement, call it what you like.

And so what/who exactly is a milonguero? Besides a term that is thrown around casually, derisively, or as an honorific?

In other cultures the term milonguero is used almost interchangeably with tanguero--a man who dances tango. But here in Buenos Aires, milonguero  has a special meaning: a man who is married to the milonga. He probably has some kind of menial day job--usually in a factory, or in an auto garage, or as a taxi driver--but every night he is found in the milongas, where he comes alive. He is not a stage dancer, nor a tango teacher--unless he has been coerced into instructing for lack of funds or by (usually) foreigners who want to dance like he does. And he has never taken a tango lesson himself. Tango is his life, not his work. He is famous for using his dance skills to conquer women. If you ask him if he is a milonguero, he will deny it and say he is a bailarine, a dancer.

Milonguero used to be a pejorative term, an insult, as in, "Oh, he is nothing but a milonguero!" Meaning the man hangs out in dance halls, seduces women, and has no real education or profession. A milonguero isn't a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or college professor who dances tango as a hobby. A milonguero is more the dance equivalent of a bar fly--a man who lives to dance, who gets drunk on the tango, and can not live without it.

Because of the history of the word, you can't really call a tanguero in New York or London or Sydney a milonguero, because he hasn't had time to be one, even if his culture allowed it. Most foreign tangueros are professional men with real careers and families and even if there were milongas all night long every night where they live, they probably wouldn't spend all their time dancing at them.

But nowadays, because the best dancers tend to be the ones who have danced the longest, the true milonguero is getting old, disappearing and unfortunately dying off. The modern world doesn't seem to have a place or time for a young man to loiter every night in tango halls, learning by watching the older men. And perhaps today's young men are not inclined to spend years waiting to be great dancers. So they take classes, and after a couple years of classes, they teach classes, because there is always someone who knows less than they do. And then they enter competitions to get a name, and then they take teaching engagements in other countries and are always touring, rarely are they in the milongas of Buenos Aires. No matter what style they say they dance, these men are not milongueros.

Today, to be politically correct, especially when the country's president is a woman, some people talk about milongueras, the female counterpart to the milonguero. But there really is no such thing. A woman hanging out in dance halls every night, meeting, flirting and dancing with strange men, has another name, and it has nothing to do with tango. So the correct term for a woman who dances tango is tanguera.

If you see a guy wearing this shirt, he is not a milonguero.
As times change, as the tango changes, as the milonguero viejo dies off, certainly the meaning of the word will also change. But while we still have real and true milongueros, men who grew up in the milongas and learned and followed the codigos and spent their lives dancing, let's not throw the word around lightly. A few decades ago it was an insult; now it is a compliment, and who knows what it will mean in the future. But while we still have the real live deal in our Buenos Aires milongas, let's save the term for them.