"This is sooooooo embarrassing," they would remark to each other as the whole group would make a beeline, en masse, to their seats - while everyone else in Toronto Tango merrily milonga'd away the next ten to twelve minutes.
Now, their young energetic instructor could dance milonga - kind of. He was young and fleet-footed and quick enough to be able hit all the beats with his steps. No-one realized that his milonga was the "Tango, but much faster" kind of milonga dancing (this was in the days before Youtube), so all the students were all fascinated and awed that El Maestro could dance milonga.
Just by watching El Maestro's frantic yet elegant movements, the students were misled into thinking that milonga must be some kind of special divine skill-set unattainable by ordinary mortal tango students. El Maestro was really and truly the yummiest, bestest Tango dancer they had ever seen (as I said, this really was in the days before Youtube). Unfortunately, it was also glaringly obvious: almost everyone in Toronto who hadn't taken classes exclusively with El Maestro could dance milonga - but they, who had, couldn't.
Toronto Tango laughed at the entire group behind their backs and in front of their faces, chortling as they whipped by in the ronda. Frustrated and angry, they asked El Maestro - "Why couldn't we dance milonga? You are one of the best dancers and teachers in Toronto!" But El Maestro was truly mystified why he could do it but his students couldn't. As far as he was concerned, milonga was really just the same as tango - but faster. He didn't understand that many of his students were old and creaky and can't speed up their movements like the fast forward button of the VCR.
El Maestro tried to show them that it was easy. During a Practica one day, instead of playing tangos - he played milongas! He pulled, dragged and shoved his faithful students (some were clinging to their seats with their nails and teeth) onto the dance floor. "Faster! Faster! FASTER!" he yelled. The students tripped over their own feet trying to chase the tempo. They were like a bunch of breathless, raggedy old nags in an obstacle course - spurred on to go faster but colliding catastrophically into the beats instead of leaping gracefully over them.
"Is there a happy ending to this story?" asked Man Yung.
"No." I replied. "In fact, six years later, dancing milonga for some of these students is still like flogging a dead horse."
|They tried to dance milonga|
Moral(s) of this story:
1. Milonga is not "Tango, but faster". Tango steps on the whole require more time to execute than what is permissible under milonga tempo. You must get yourself a milonga repetoire to enable you to express yourself, milonga-style.
2. Ditto for Vals. Vals is NOT "Tango, but medium faster".
3. We reiterate: You are not supposed to dance Tango to Milonga or to Vals. That means try not to do movements that make you pause and skip beats! Doing this will make you look like you are miming underwater exploration in the middle of a fast-moving current.
4. This is not the Tango Hell of the eighties. If you can't make it to Buenos Aires, there are instructional tapes and DVDS. We also have Youtube. If you are not sure how Milonga or Vals is danced, or if you suspect that you have been hoodwinked to think that the weird looking local thing is the "real deal", I suggest that you check out the following dancers for the fidelity of their dancing and their steps to the compas of milonga or vals (not an exhaustive list, but the ones we consider the best examples):
For Milonga: Pepito Avellaneda, and Martha Anton and Manolo "El Gallego" are legends. Osvaldo and Coca Cartery also do a very fine milonga. For Milonga Traspie, El Flaco Dany, and El Pibe Sarandi with Elina Roldan.
For Vals: Tete, Alberto Dassieu, Julio Balmaceda. Osvaldo and Coca Cartery also do a very fine vals (Yes, they can do it all!) They are the best. Don't even think of arguing with me - unless you want to keep doing your wishy-washy, underwater miming tango thing masquerading as vals.
We recommend the above because you can't go wrong in understanding the milonga and vals compas by watching these dancers. As for some of the other examples available on Youtube - including some of those who give "internet classes" on milonga and vals - all we can say is, the internet is a dangerous place. All that "structured", oh-so-clear (and in English! you say) instruction may be mis-leading you right back to the same glue factory also known as "Tango, but faster"....
5. Your instructor may dance like a genius - or dance so-so, but sound like a genius from all his or her theorizing! If something doesn't smell right - e.g. how come everyone can dance milonga but not me?* - then don't you think it is time to take another approach? You do not have to get stuck in a rut and embarrassed forever. Broaden your horizons, take classes with others, even with teachers from Buenos Aires, if you could!
*Or worse: "How come everyone in Toronto goes to the milonga, but we are still stuck in classes listening to our instructor's theories and too afraid to go to any of the local milongas to dance and it's been over 6 months/1 year/5 years!" We have dancers in Toronto who have been sucked into the black hole of various tango cults - in which students are forbidden or strongly, passive-aggressively discouraged to attend milongas, classes and events not run by their own instructors. I suspect that they have been told something like, "You are not ready" and "Dancing with those unruly people out there who haven't had my expert instruction will completely ruin your technique!" And indeed, they are not ready. When they do come out, all high and mighty from all the hierarchy climbing from within their tight little group and from all the compliments that their instructor has given them to stroke their egos and make them stay with him or her - the fact that they dance and navigate poorly, and cannot follow and lead anyone who hasn't learned the same choreography from the same instructor means that coming out to the milonga will be a traumatic experience. They usually retreat back into the safety of the "nest", where their instructor will continue to coddle them - and they can continue to pretend to "expert learners" of a tango which has no relation to reality. A vicious circle.