The Sensibilities of a Milonguero
Milonguero: a person who loves to dance to tango music and who frequents milongas (social tango dance environments) over many years.
In the beginning, when you are first exposed to tango, you do not yet have the vision, experience, and feelings to appreciate of the inside of the dance. By inside of the dance, I mean the feelings that two people have when moving well together to tango music. As a novice to the dance you do get whiffs of it though, and that probably is part of the reason you are drawn to tango. For one thing, the intimacy is obvious. When you watch developed dancers, you notice that their four feet are doing all sort of independent and yet coordinated movement. The communication between the dancers might be hidden, but you get hints of it: the look on dancers faces, the concentration, closed or narrowed eyes, the flashes of emotion.
When you learn more and dance more, maybe you turn to videos of dancers. You find out from your tango friends who are the most exciting and hottest dancers in the world and you watch them on YouTube. You are blown away by what they are capable of even though you do not understand how to do it yourself. You are likely thrilled by the more exotic movements: the volcadas, big boleos, leg wrap combinations, barridas, etc. etc. And you think you cannot be a good dancer until you learn these dramatic and challenging movements.
But you are being seduced down the wrong path; better to return to what you sensed and have felt about the inside of the dance.
To develop the sensibilities of a milonguero (assuming you have a solid dance foundation — see blog post about what composes your tango foundation) turn your attention to the inside qualities of the dance. Start by creating the most beautiful embrace you can make. Wake up both sides of your body, both arms and hands. Make sure they feel the other person, stay lively, responsive, and toned — neither stiff nor floppy. Be alive in your embrace, sometimes strong and firm, sometimes gentle and delicate. Be expressive in your embrace but not exaggerated.
Next go deeper into the music. Relax into it. Your campos (walk) should be secure, long or short, slow or quick. Live on the tail end of the beat with the slow melodic songs, and live on the front of the beat with the up-tempo ones. Flex the rhythm of your dance by taking multiple quick steps or go very slow and pause. Enter the sway of the music like you would by sliding into a river. Use rocking steps and up and back movement to create a cradling vibe. Be lyrical, rise and fall, float and stretch. Most importantly, tune into the melody of the music. Let the melody speak to your feelings. Even if you do not understand Spanish, listen to the sonorous voices of tango and know that they are singing about love, loss, and longing (much of the time, but not always). They sing of time passing never to be recovered, of people gone, or life and home changed and never to be the same.
Here is the second stanza of the song Nada (Nothing in English). Lyrics by Horacio Sanguinetti (1944), translated by Alberto Paz.
Nada, nada queda en tu casa natal... Sólo telarañas que teje el yuyal. El rosal tampoco existe y es seguro que se ha muerto al irte tú... ¡Todo es una cruz! Nada, nada más que tristeza y quietud. Nadie que me diga si vives aún... ¿Dónde estás, para decirte que hoy he vuelto arrepentido a buscar tu amor?
Nothing, nothing is left in the house where you were born…
Only spiderwebs that the weeds weave.
The rosebush does not exist either
and for sure it has died when you left…
Everything is a cross!
Nothing, nothing else but sadness and calm.
Nobody to tell me if you’re still alive…
Where are you, to tell you
that today I’ve returned repentant looking for your love?
Listen to DiSarli’s version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-VZE6L-3o0
Listen to Calo’s version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMfCWCtT5uw
Both sung by Alberto Podesta