Friday, 2 April 2010


I have the reputation of being a milongaphobe, but I don't dislike milonga at all although I dance it reluctantly and (I think) unconvincingly. I like the music, but not as much as tango or vals. A partner once told me she often finds it difficult to get a leader for milonga so I wonder if milongaphobia is a common affliction. Is there an element of wit or light-heartedness in milonga that's somehow a problem? I don't think it has much to do with the speed of the music since I dance vals in double time without hesitation. Teachers convinced me early on that milonga is a separate, different dance, with different 'steps', and I felt I had enough to do with learning tango 'steps', so I didn't bother. & now it suits me to take a break. No, no, it's milonga! But watching some of the older Buenos Aires dancers has been very reassuring. For instance, isn't this wonderful? (A pity the picture gives away the age of the dancers: just watching the first twenty seconds of their feet you'd never guess.)

When it comes down to it, milonga isn't a separate dance, or tango danced fast, but tango danced to a milonga beat. Some figures work better in tango or milonga, but it's hardly a separate dance. It wasn't until I took a workshop with Adrian and Amanda Costa that I realised that most milonga isn't necessarily relentless and fast but, like tango, can have its pauses and musicality: thanks! & I've watched older dancers in Buenos Aires whose milonga seems very slow, but is full of feints and pretences. Once you catch on to what they are doing, it's actually quite funny to watch.

Pocho and Nelly's dancing is beautiful, no other word for it. It's breathtakingly musical, unhurried, passionate, assured. Seguro, seguro! & for once the film is well made, technically good quality, with a clear whole-body view. It's sad that there are relatively few videos of this couple on YouTube. I don't know how old they are, but they must be among the last survivors of the generation that learned tango around the 1950s. There was a tango hiatus until the late 1980s: they may have continued dancing, but not many people did, so they are one of the last direct links to the dance of the golden age, and good video of them should be really important. They've done a few teaching tours of the US, so maybe there's more out there. A pity someone can't get funding to rent a venue, perhaps in the afternoon, and pay dancers of that generation generously to attend a few milongas, where they could be filmed well, dancing socially and solo. Sadly, there's not much time left.

Here's another older couple dancing a fast milonga in El Beso.Once again, there's nothing technically difficult (except that calesita at 00:58): it's just incredibly well done.

Videos thanks to Grznik and Tangaso.


Anonymous said...

Why is it that its always the older generation who dance so much more meaningfully than the younger one? Seriously I rarely see younger dancers that I am drawn to in terms of musicality, profundity, style, savouring the music and movement?

I'm not asking to troll - I'm interested in genuine reasons.

Milonga - most of the older generation dance it was a sense of serenity, the kids seems to race which is not the same sense.

jantango said...

You can read more about Pocho at and Nely

They have a history together which shows in their dancing.

Tangocommuter said...

Good question, anon! & I wonder what your answer would be. 'Savouring the music' is a great description.

One thing I see is respect for the music. The music isn't just a background to a showy display. That respect for the music must go back to the days when couples like Pocho and Nely first danced. They've lived their lives with that music and those lyrics, and that's why I think videos of them and of other couples of that age are so important, and I wish we had many more of them.

Anonymous said...

My answer is the inexperience of youth. It takes experience and wisdom to understand and appreciate what is truly important - kids, not just in tango, will always be attracted to little shiny sweetwrapper things .. until they realise the quality cheese is much more complex and has layers of appreciation waiting for you.

Andreas said...

Thanks for posting this. I love watching Pocho and Nely, they are paring tango/milonga/vals down to the essentials. No fluff, pure substance. Wonderful simplicity.

Andreas said...

This one illustrates it well, I think - Pocho and Nely dancing to Pugliese's "El Rodeo". Leaves me speechless.

hans peter meyer said...

When I took my first real tango lessons it was in a studio in Buenos Aires. Very little English was spoken, and my Spanish was muy poquito. We spent an incredible amount of time (to my mind) practicing movements that were about milonga. And yes, as you say, tango and milonga are really the same dance. But different.

At the studio, tango was revered; but milonga was celebrated. I didn't really know enough to know why that was. Now, after dancing for three years, I find myself less and less interested in tango per se, and absolutely intoxicated by milonga. And yes, simple is always better.

Maybe that's why I like milonga more than tango these days: I have to keep my dance simple if I want to retain connection with my partner; I have to strip things down and hold her close, and really feel the music, in a way that the slower pace of tango doesn't require me to do.

Why are older dancers more attuned to the subtle beauty of milonga? I like some of the answers: maturity, musicality, less ego involvement in the flash and "moves" and more willingness to connect with the other. There is a flash or decadence to this tango/milonga/vals "dance" that distracts many of us dancers for a long time. The obsession with "moves" gets in the way of feeling the pure joy of dancing together with a partner. Maybe it's only with dancing for a while that what's really important starts to shine through?

Thanks for posting this. I write a little about my relationship to tango – and other dances – at