Archive for the ‘milonga’ Tag

The Concept of the Tanda and the Dynamics of a Milonga   Leave a comment

The Concept of the Tanda and the Dynamics of a Milonga
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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Posted November 7, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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The quintessential definition of a milonga   Leave a comment

The quintessential definition of a milonga
By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz

Excerpts from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved

Did you know that in Buenos Aires there is an official definition of what constitutes a “milonga?” You’d need to meet specific criteria to obtain a permit to operate a milonga. By definition, a milonga is a place where the dance of tango and its codes of conduct are taught and practiced.

In a milonga, the dance floor is clearly demarcated from and surrounded by the area occupied by tables and chairs where the public remain seated, except when they step onto the dance floor to dance.

The structure of this type of dance requires sufficient space for its execution as well as the additional space for the circulation around, which is also preordained by this dance. That determines its capacity. The number of tables and chairs needed to accommodate everyone in attendance and the need for circulation corridors for the waiters to take care of servicing the tables result in an especially low density of participants in relation to other popular dance venues, where agglomeration is the norm.

The public is mainly adult, with a certain level of education. They are local habitues and foreigners who come to practice or to perfect the knowledge of the dance.

The atmosphere is familiar, similar to a social club, where the majority of people know each other. There are particularly demanding codes of conduct and courtesy, which are as important as the knowledge of the dance itself.

The lighting, unlike in typical dance halls, must be relatively high to allow all the participants to get a good look at all the premises.

The music must have a low decibel level in order to avoid affecting the auditory capacity of the public engaged in normal conversations at the tables. (Normal is considered approximately 75 decibels; 130 decibels is the level at a disco, which is barely bearable for less than 15 minutes without causing a reduction in the level of hearing.)

The dance is done exclusively in pairs.

The presence of live music does not modify any of these parameters. The patrons remain seated at the tables or dance on the floor with conduct identical to that acceptable for recorded music. In other instances, when a singer performs or professional dancers give a dance exhibition, the duration does not exceed the length of a tanda and the patrons remain seated, without crowding any areas or exceeding capacity of a space.

All these conditions (lighting, sound level, characteristics of the music, quality of the dance, codes of courtesy, and age of the patrons) contribute to an atmosphere of intimacy at the milonga that is conducive to calm and friendly behavior, diametrically opposed to what is characteristic of other places of dance.

Most important, they contribute to create something unique to any other social dance. It is called the dynamics of the “milonga.”

Now, we don’t live in Buenos Aires, we live in New Orleans, and let me digress by saying thanks God. So our promise to you is that we’ll work hard to recreate the dynamics of a “milonga” every Thursday night at the Planet Tango milonga.

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It’s not a happy tango   Leave a comment


It’s not a happy tango

In the early days of our tango lives we often heard tales from the tango urban mythology about milonga dancing in the “old days” (a fit all phrase used by those who have no concrete evidence as to the real date when something is supposed to have happened). The one that stuck in our minds was the description of how one could tell that people were dancing milonga by the cloud of dust that could be seen from afar.

When we first saw milonga dancers in 1997, observing the use of half steps, and noticing how the knees were slightly raised bringing the foot up before stepping straight down onto the ground, we began to understand how a dust cloud could be produced by such a way to dance. To the early cliche of dancing tango the way a panther moves, we embraced the idea of dancing milonga with the spirited and brisk trot of a Clydesdale.

The milonga is a lively dance, but it is not a happy tango, as it was originally called in the US half way throughout the nineteen nineties. It is strictly an urban social dance companion to the tango without the stage baggage that accompanied the tango when it began to travel internationally. As a result of that, the popularity of the milonga seems to drop in inverse proportion to its distance from the dance halls of Buenos Aires. Most men fear the milonga while most ladies seem to love dancing it, and therein lay the conundrum of a dance that is almost a natural for “leaders and followers.”

With that in mind we occasionally offer milonga workshops, and we get good reviews from those who step up to the task. We just went through a very exhausting one and here is the summary.

The use of Half Step makes the choreography of the milonga challenging and attractive because they can adapt to the complexity of the rhythm in a seamless way.

A half step begins when the free foot is next, in front, behind, or to the side of the support foot, and it always ends with both feet together and a weight change, or change of axis.
To take a half step forward, starting with both feet together, you reach forward with one foot bringing the body to the new position putting weight on that foot. Then you move the other foot forward and bring it next to the support foot without any body movement, and change weight.
To take a half step backward, starting with both feet together, you reach back with one foot bringing the body to the new position putting weight on that foot. Then you move the other foot back and bring it next to the support foot without any body movement, and change weight.
When your feet are in an open position, you bring your feet together without any body movement, and change weight.
Half step sequences always use the same foot to advance, go back or to the side similar to the way we skip rather than how we run. A half step is generally counted as QUICK.

Half Step Sawtooth variation (0:11″)
The sequence begins on the second step of the Base, when the man steps outside right with his right foot, and the lady steps back with her left foot.
We elongate after taking the half step and then drop as the feet come together facilitating the axis or weight change and rotating to the right. Next the man takes a half step to his right into the lady’s left side. She matches by taking a half diagonal step to her left. There is elongation, drop and rotation with weight change, and the figure repeats until we exit continuing with the Base.

Full turn rocking step (0:29″)
From the cruzada position (the end of a salida simple) we rock back and forth using forward and back diagonals to make a full turn in eight counts. Observe how we take advantage of the rocking motion to add embellishments.

Double time ochos variation (0:57″)

The sequence starts from the cruzada and it modifies the resolution. After the expected forward and side, the man sends the woman into a back and matches her in a mirror position. He then begin a series of half steps led with his left foot while the woman does direction changes with her outside foot. Because of the the similarity with tango back ochos, in some unofficial jargon, sometimes the woman’s foot work is called “ochitos.”
The idea for the man is to avoid being robotic and geometric, and dancing around the woman instead to make her back steps less demanding.
At the end (1:11″) the man holds a half step, does an amague with his left and exits the sequence with second step of the salida.

Full giro with soltada (1:28″)
Once again from the cruzada position, we begin a giro to the right in cross feet. The man mirrors her first forward step with his right, as he begins an eight count circular forward step around the woman. On the woman’s fifth step, a repetition of her first forward step, the man “suelta” letting go her right arm as he continues stepping forward on hos fifth step.
Taking the mark, the woman converts her right hand giro forward steps into a left hand giro open step with her back to the man.
Next, she resumes her right hand giro by taking a back diagonal facing the man again. They’re take a forward step with their right leg for the third time, but this being count seven, the man does a check step provoking a change of direction for her. She responds by stepping with her left foot to the man’s left, recreating the cruzada position and resolving the traditional way.

At the end, there is an implied lesson, it’s better to stay away from the buffet line and spend more time on the dance floor doing milonga. Also, stop while you’re ahead before muscles and joints that had been long forgotten trigger an outburst of insanely happy feet.

Posted March 13, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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