Ask Arlene…Why aren’t people dancing to a Milonga?

From Wildcard:

Hmmmm I am pondering……………..R some people just faking it?????

Why is it that so many dancers in London find the tango milonga so difficult to dance? Often perfectly competent tango dancers sit down immediately a milonga track comes on protesting ‘Ooh No….I don’t dance milonga’. Alternatively you get those Roadrunner dancers who think milonga is just speeded up tango and whiz your round the floor dancing tango steps at break neck speed – UGGGH.

Is it because the tango milonga is so poorly taught and led in London, is it just very difficult or alternatively is it because theres a lot of people out there with poor musicality who just can’t follow the milonga beat – poor musicality can to some extent be covered up in traditional tango, but if you can’t dance to a milonga beat its very obvious – R u just faking it?

Dear Wildcard,

Not quite sure what your point really is but I will put my two cents in for what it is worth.

There is a particular method to dancing a Milonga, or there is supposed to be, compared to dancing to a Tango or a Vals.  It is meant to be fun and the pace is supposed to be picked up a notch or two.  I do not think that the method of teaching a Milonga is poor.  I have attended many Milonga classes and they are generally taught in a similar fashion for the beginners. It gets more interesting in the intermediate classes when tricky steps and decorations are added, but they are usually added to the basic format.

I agree it is not a version of the Speedway as a lot of men like to dance it.  I have danced wonderful Milongas where we have barely gone halfway around the room.  That was done at half the speed and the timing, feeling, and playfulness of the dance was still there.

I will not dance a Milonga as a first dance with someone I have never danced with or if I haven’t seen them dance it before.  Every man I have ever danced a Milonga with dances it completely different.  Some don’t even dance Milonga.  They dance Tango in Milonga time.  These are the same men that dance Tango in Vals time (another topic, another time).

If the men are not dancing Milonga, it is because they are probably still trying to get the hang of Tango and it is just another new style to learn when they are already struggling with Tango.  Their brains can only cope with so much at one time you see.  Eventually, they do dance Milonga.  Or at least they try to.  Maybe they don’t ‘feel’ the Milonga as they would a Tango or a Vals.

Personally, I am not that bothered if the men are not dancing Milonga, especially if they are not confident or competent with it.  My only issue is why the DJ’s insist on playing 4 tracks of Milonga in a row, especially when the room is really warm.

I am really surprised at your last statement though.  Poor musicality cannot be covered up in any dance form let alone in Tango.  Perhaps you should re-think that line.

So, I would like to hear from the men that don’t dance Milonga, why not?


18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Voice of Reason
    Mar 20, 2009 @ 16:47:22

    Hey Wild-One
    I think you have a point here. Personally I love Milonga as long as there is a strong beat and the sound is clear. I have to say I have heard a few dodgy ones at Negracha. I would say that I am always worried when I see peole trying to do Milonga in an open embrace. It looks ridiculous and can not be something I would not imagine anyone can really enjoy and it would be a bit bumpy. They can indeed only be faking it.

  2. tangobob
    Mar 20, 2009 @ 18:01:11

    Rather that badly taught,milonga seems to be rarely taught. I never had a lesson in milonga until I went to buenos Aires. I see it very rarely at home. Given the chance I will always do a milonga class when I can, personally I love it.
    Look out for Rudofo “El Chino” gives the best n most entertaining milonga classes I have seen.

  3. Game Cat
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 14:11:47

    My thoughts from someone who doesn’t dance vals (by preference and for practicality).

    From my limited observation, most of all class time in London is given to tango (consistent with Tangobob). I don’t think on balance this is wrong as the fundamentals of tango apply equally to milonga and vals, and it has a slower tempo which makes it easier for beginners.

    I don’t think poor musicality is a barrier to learning milonga or vals. In fact, the rhythm is less varied and more distinct than tango. Milonga has the characteristic 4 beats with habanero syncopation. For vals, it is slow-quick-quick all the way. The beat is also usually far more strongly emphasised. For men, there are fewer things to listen out for and think about.

    I think one possible reason why men don’t just pick up milonga on their own is that some believe one has to do the traspies (double time steps) for it to be “proper”. They can be tricky (at least to me).

    I would recommend men to learn milonga even if it is not to their tastes purely because it forces one to gain technical ability that can make them better tango dancers in general. If not, I’m also okay with that. It gives the rest of us more room to dance when the milonga music comes on…

  4. Mr Walker
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 14:57:06

    I must admit that i always head for the sidelines when a milonga comes on….i love milonga and sometimes i dance milonga,But only at my local milonga never in town…i.e. negrecha…the crypt..carablanca…. and so on.Why because evrytime i have danced with someone chaos followed….And because i am the leader i take full responsibility for the dance breaking down…
    At the same time i believe that when i dance with someone they are in their own right a dancer and must keep their own balance and timing and i expect it to be the beat we are both hearing. I always try my best to lead with my chest not force or push but lead/invite the follower to dance with me….not at me…So these experiences have in a way meant my confidence in dancing a milonga is not high and as a leader you should be confident in dancing it otherwise it’s just steps and bad one’s at that…we already have enough people on the floor charging around…

  5. wild card
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 16:36:41

    What I am saying is:

    I feel that being able to follow the milonga beat is one of the fundamental tests of whether you have basic musicality or not. If you cant follow a milonga beat, which as GameCat says is very distinct, well……….Go figure!

    VISUALLY poor musicality can be covered up to some extent in normal tango because it is slower and therefore harder to detect – smoke and mirrors. How many people look quite good on the floor but when you actually dance with them…….

    But you cant fake dancing well to a milonga beat!

  6. Ms Hedgehog
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 19:38:14

    I’m totally OK with it if people who don’t feel confident with it, or just don’t like it, sit down.

    I do think it takes a certain level of skill from the follower, for the same reason that it’s so extremely difficult to dance milonga well in open embrace. The connection has to be quite high-resolution, and although that’s not particularly difficult it is something that the woman has to realise is possible, and then make a purposeful effort, over some time, to learn. That must make it all the harder for leaders to build up confidence.

  7. Voice of Reason
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 20:22:33

    Hi Wild one
    So you think that Milonga is the true test? Do you keep the rythm or is it just a matter of hanging on to your partner? Where do you dance? Perhaps you can give me a try out next time you are at Balham. I’ll be wearing a hat. Ps. I assume you are a Chica.


  8. tango totty
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 20:27:24

    Dear Arlene

    Ive just read your article on commies and I know how much you love them. But do you not think that women wearing 4″ commies is just a recipe for athritis and bad feet later on in life. Lets face it the women are always complaining about and rubbing the balls of their feet after the milongas. And just look at Victoria Beckham. She was criticised recently in the press for wearing 5″ stilletoes to a theme park and she wasnt even doing any dancing. Lets see the men putting on 4″ commies and dancing in them instead.

  9. Game Cat
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 22:02:20

    I like that metaphor – a “high resolution connection”.

    I think it cuts both ways…..the man needs to appreciate how sharp the connection needs to be, how to engender it in an unfamiliar and/or unconfident follower, and signal the next step just before he executes it. He can’t just power his way through and hope she’ll follow miraculously.

    I understand why many men and women don’t like to start off a night, or even an unfamiliar partner, with a milonga. Both need to be warmed up, relaxed and alive.

  10. Arlene
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 07:05:01

    Dear Totty,

    In defense of CiFs or any other high heeled shoe, it is no one’s bloody business what I put on my feet as long as I can dance in them and not do too much damage to anyone else.

    I don’t wear them all the time – only for dancing. I have high arches and find them comfortable. I get regular pedicures and I am a qualified reflexologist and lookd after my feet. If you don’t believe me, come and ask me and I will show you how great my tootsies are.

    I don’t give a hoot what other people are wearing.

    So your point is?

  11. tango totty
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 11:57:47

    Dear Arlene

    My point – and I don’t understand why you couldnt see this – wasnt supposed to be personal. It was to say that no matter how sexy they look, the cult of actively encouraging killer heels for women in tango is potentially very damaging to the feet in the long term.

    Perhaps some tango classes should include specific exercises for strengthening and stretching the foot muscles to compensate for this.

  12. Arlene
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 12:16:12

    Dear Totty,

    I am not really interested or care about what people put on their feet for dancing as long as people are comfortable.

    Adults can make up their own minds about what they want to wear. If they are dumb enough to wear shoes that hurt them and they don’t look after themselves, well not my problem.

    Some teachers offer leg and foot exercises in their classes. It is a very good idea.

    Now, that is the last word from me on the shoes.

  13. Voice of Reason
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 21:22:31

    Hi Arlene

    I know that you have had your fill of defending the shoes that people choose to wear at tango. I agree that it is a personal preference. Personally , I say that you can’t beat a good pair of practice shoes. However, I digress. I think that Tango totty does have a point here.
    Totty correct me if I am wrong but are you complaining that the tango culture, which values uncomfortable shoes and figure hugging clothing which women are expected to atire themselves in puts at risk, the long term health of the same women? Well thats their choice as Arlene says. Do you follow suit or are you a jeans and trainers type dancer. Perhaps you are right though and women should protect themselves for the future. We are all living longer, lets stay healthy on our feet. At least while we dance.

    VoR x

  14. townsend
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 05:57:25

    Re. Real Milonga timing and soul:

    I will dance with anyone who reflects some kind of latin….ness…in their movements throughout the night. But the aveverage white woman here in Seattle just doesn’t get the soul of the beat. Count away, but would you want your lover to count too? Then it’s not dance, it’s math….yech!! And yeah, I’ve done England too…did my O levels and whatnot. Liked the pale skin, hate the food, and for christ’s sake ‘an all….learn to swim….it’s an island!

    Just biffing around.

    Scott, here in the unfortunate and new Nazi State of the US


  15. townsend
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 06:07:49

    hey, real time editing….need more beer


  16. Arlene
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 06:50:42

    Hey Scott,

    Maybe you need to dance with an American with Hungarian blood in her veins! 🙂

  17. townsend
    Apr 05, 2009 @ 04:43:35

    the darker the blood the worse the wound …..or more passionate the life….seattle is like white bread WITH the crust cut off


    P.S. still dancing though!


  18. David
    Apr 07, 2009 @ 13:20:39

    I love to dance milonga as a first dance with someone I’ve never danced with before.

    The dance is a lot simpler than tango and the more consistent rhythm make it easier to relax.

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