By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz
Excerpts from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved
The TANDA (TAN-duh), or La tanda is a tango Spanish word that defines a set or group of songs of similar rhythm, generally by the same orchestra, and preferable from the same time period.
The tanda originated in the early days of radio programming when music was played from 33⅓ rpm microgroove vinyl phonograph records introduced in 1948. It made sense to play a few songs in a row from the same album without interruption. That became known as a tanda musical (musical tanda). The concept was also applied to commercials played in a row without interruption. They became known as tandas comerciales (commercial tandas).
The musicalizadores (music men spinning the music) at dance halls and clubs soon found it very practical to play a block of music or tanda from each LP. After a tanda, they would play a sort of musical curtain (cortina musical) or separator that allowed them to change the LP for the next tanda. This necessary routine served an unintended purpose as well. The cortina reminded dancers to clear the floor for a short interval to allow the ladies to be accompanied back to their seats, to allow the waiters to take orders and serve food and beverages to the tables, and to allow for a rest room visit.
The structure or dynamics of the milonga allowed men and women in between songs of a tanda, the opportunity to know each other, share a conversation, and perhaps arrange for furtive dates at a later day, because the social mores of the time didn’t allow women to freely socialize or consort with men at public places. It had something to do with virtue and good name. A shared ‘tanda’ afforded a dancing couple fifteen minutes of total intimacy in front of everyone.
People attending social dances dedicated to the tango (including milonga and valses, of course) were aware and abode by the codes and protocols of the milonga.
– Invitations to dance were made and accepted during the cortina, the first or second song of the tanda.
– Invitations on the third song of the ‘tanda’ were mostly for showing a newcomer’s skills for others to see, for example or for fulfilling a social family obligation such as “dance with your cousin, please.”
– Invitations on the fourth and last song were very rare. Dancing the last song of a ‘tanda’ was equivalent to dancing only one song.
– Dancing just one song of a tanda was understood by everybody that either one of the dancers, man or woman, couldn’t wait to get away from each other for whatever reasons. This sent a clear message to the rest of the room that something was ‘wrong’ with either one or both of them. The one who was
perceived to be the worst dancer would in all likelihood not set foot on the floor for the rest of the evening.
For a milonga to have dynamics is not necessary to know Spanish, or to behave like an Argentino. However, respecting others and the dance floor by not staying on the floor during cortinas and being aware of which order in the tanda is the song being played is.
Next, how individual behavior affects the dynamics of the dance floor…
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