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March 19, 2008

Yvonne Meissner on Tango Styles

Firenze ... KI DOJO ... Tango - Articles - Styles of Tango, Part II


Tango de Salon - Stile Milonguero - Stile Tango Apilado

Interview with Yvonne Meissner

(translation E. Marsiglia)

We continue the interview with tango teacher Yvonne Meissner concerning the different styles and terminologies of Argentine tango, which was published in 2000 on the “E-American List”.

(Y = Yvonne, J = giornalista)

J:        We’ve arrived at the term “Tango Salon”. I have heard different definitions of this, such as Club Style, Milonguero Style and others, but do these expressions always refer to the same style of tango?

Y:        The expression Tango Salon encompasses all the styles of tango which are danced in a social context where, collectively, it is necessary to consider the movements of other couples. The name itself derives from the kind of place in which it is danced. It was born in the 1940s, when the middle classes began to attend the milongas (dance halls), and has two particular characteristics: 1) that the couple keeps the front part of their bodies and their shoulders directly facing each other throughout the entire dance, and 2) that the couple respects the speed and direction of the “ronda” (the rotating movement of the entire group in the milonga). Also in this salon style the dancers keep their heels on or as close as possible to the ground and do not execute figures that might interfere with other couples on the dance floor. The essential feature is that the dancing remains within the physical space created by the couple.

Salon Tango can also be danced with a close embrace, as many tango tourists to Buenos Aires have noticed. This was, and remains, the practice in the centre of Buenos Aires, whereas in the Salon Tango of the barrios, or outer districts (Saavedra for example) the dancers keep a certain amount of space between the leader and the follower, while still maintaining the other features mentioned above. In the province of Buenos Aires (for example Avellaneda) the couples assume a horizontal V position with the apex at the right hand shoulder of the leader. Salon Tango uses steps that we can still define as “figures”, but these are not pre-determined and are not always danced from the beginning to the end of the sequence, as they can be interrupted according to the sense of the music and the available space in a salon.

J:        We can say then that the term Tango Salon refers to all the styles of tango that are danced socially, but how many of these styles exist?

Y:        There are a number of forms of Tango Salon: Tango Liso, for example, is a simple tango walk. At most, the follower is led into a cross, but there are no turns or other figures. This form of tango was born at the beginning of the forties, when a part of the middle class in Argentina became interested in the tango and began to frequent the milongas (the daughters always being accompanied by some member of the family). They wanted to experience the pleasures of the new dance without having to mix with the lower social classes, who had been dancing the tango since the end of the thirties. Some of their figures, the ‘gancho’ for example (which in the thirties was only performed by men) or other similar sequences, had a sexual connotation both for the dancers and for those watching. Because of this, Tango Liso became the only form of tango that the daughters of the ‘respectable’ classes were allowed to dance. Some milongueros today still dance the Tango Liso but only in the authentic milongas, which the tango tourists do not normally attend. Tango Confiteria and Club Style are also forms of Tango Salon which are danced socially in the milongas, either with a close embrace or with a certain distance between the leader and follower

J:        Tell me ’one last thing’: what differentiates Milonguero Style from Apilado Style?

Y:       The Milonguero or Close Embrace Style are terms which describe the tango danced by the milongueros of Buenos Aires in contrast to the Tango Fantasia which was introduced by Todaro, and is now danced throughout the greater part of Europe. In 1993, a performing group of authentic milongueros came to Holland and taught what they called the Milonguero Style, which, for them, was just a general term for Tango Salon, but because they danced with a close embrace, Milonguero Style became the term for this ‘Buenos Aires’ way of dancing. Tango Salon in the Apilado manner is the same as Milonguero Style i.e. with the couple dancing in a close embrace. The term Apilado can be interpreted loosely as “put yourself forward” for the leader or “lean towards the leader” for the follower, which describes the kind of close embrace used by the milongueros from the centre of Buenos Aires. As the dancers lean towards each other (more or less according to preference) they share a third axis, creating, vertically from the heels, a /\ formation in which the apex of the /\ corresponds to the upper part of both bodies where the couple are in contact. In addition the follower embraces the leader by putting her left arm around his neck towards his left shoulder. Since the 1990s, this style of tango, which historically was danced only in the centre of Buenos Aires, has become more and more widespread, especially in Holland.

J:        Thanks, Yvonne.

Posted by joegrohens at March 19, 2008 02:24 AM