My Milonga tips, the dance and music, not the place, for those who have a hard time getting it.
The dance, milonga, seems to elude people. You either love it, somehow plod through it, or avoid it all together. Which is a SHAME! Recently one of my fun dancers, a lead, asked me to teach him milonga. What? Why? “Because I just don’t get it”, he said. No wonder we never danced it before, we always seemed to dance the romantic tandas.
I mention this because I perceive tango and dancers in 2 categories: rhythmic or melodic. Not that we can’t be both but in general my experience (and remember my experience has been mostly with beginners at the university) is that people tend to lean towards one or the other. They might actually favor one over the other too, and it is reflected in their learning as well. Maybe not a great example but I love romantic tandas; I grew up listening to classical music and playing classical piano to become a concert pianist. Rommel (my former partner) grew up on salsas and cumbias, these are close to his heart and he manages to find rhythmic parts to even the most melodic of tangos!
My belief is that we can all hear music but some sounds resonate more than others. I often notice this in my classes as well. I have been known to change orchestras based on how I perceive a student moving. I had a student who couldn’t figure out a Di Sarli but managed well with Canaro!
So let’s get back to my friend who can’t find his milonga!
Because we had to establish a baseline for understanding I told him I’d start him off like I do my beginners so we would have a foundation and a shared language.
Firstly, I create some soft rules, for as we know rules are meant to be broken (sometimes)! They are: no using “la cruzada”, only use parallel system, remember that milonga is happy, and follows be ready to move. I find this allows the student to focus on finding the music and their “milonga-body”.
After establishing this the mind can relax a bit and I we continue:
1) Listening and putting music in the body. I play some Canaro milongas and I encourage students to find, what I call the stepping or marching rhythm or beats and we walk to these.
2) Finding the “milonga-body”. How the body is – a certain tone in the body to start with (since most beginners lack body awareness I find that hips and ribs and shoulders and knees can be moving all over the place) in order to arrive on the beat in this “milonga-body”, which has to feel different than their tango body. The body can’t be too lax at this stage because your body will be delayed in arriving on the beat of the music. In order to find this “milonga-body” I asked my friend to soften his knees (which means bend them) and imagine stepping with his whole foot.
3) The accent is down into the floor, if you straighten your knees you will tend to move out of the floor and look like you are bouncing.
The above outline comes first. Repeated to several different milongas and worked on alone.
The next phase is that I use “la milonga basico” or a variation of “la baldosa” step as a an anchor. I normally have introduced parts of this step in my tango classes so the form looks familiar and I now have them repeat the step to the music with a partner. I use parts of this pattern to launch into other combinations of steps and later into traspie.
Remember, I am just getting students jump started into their milonga and to not fear it. Also, when I taught semesterly at the University I spent about 6 hours on milonga and then would play milongas in subsequent classes as refreshers and practices.
So tell me, what has worked for you as a student or a teacher? Any of my former students feel free to comment as well.
(dedicated to NC – enjoy your milonga training until we dance again!)
Here are 2 videos of milongas: by Dany El Flaco Garcia y Luna Palacios en Buenos Aires and the other Maximiliano Cristiani y Jesica ArfenoniRead more