Milongueras, Tangueras and Changes in the Journey

Courtesy of Tange e vita:

Tanguero (feminine; Tanguera) Refers to anyone who is deeply and seriously passionate about any part of tango, such as its history, music, lyrics, etc. In Argentina most tangueros are scholars, of lunfardo, music, orchestrations, Gardel, etc. One can be a tanguero without being a milonguero and a milonguero without being a tanguero (very few milongueros would be referred to as tangueros). And of course one can be an extremely good tango dancer without being either, such as stage dancers, who are quite disdained by real milongueros and tangueros, unless they go the extra distance and become milongueros by going to the milongas, and/or tangueros as well. An aficionado.

Milonguero (feminine; Milonguera) Refers to those frequenting the milongas from the early 1900s to the present who were or are tango fanatics. A person whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango. A title given by other tango dancers to a man (woman) who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of tango.

Changes in the Journey

I started on this road as a tanguera-wanna-be. I'd listened to tango music for ages without having any desire to learn the dance. I didn't associate tango music with any dancing I had previously done (all of the forms of dance I had learned required no partner.) So my love of tango was, more or less, academic. I loved the stories around the music and in the music - of the musicians, the poets, the writers.

Last February a number of factors seemed to come together that made me rethink my stance on learning the dance. A friend at work had developed an interest (unfortunately for me, she was later seduced by the world of salsa), another associate whose opinion I valued told me he was also a tango dancer - and, the last star to align in this constellation - free tango classes at the university where I work. Obviously, the tango gods wanted me to dance.

So I started with my academic, though enthusiastic, approach to the music - which initially helped not at all. In fact, as I started dancing, I experienced a sort of disconnect while I re-learned how to listen to the music. How to associate the sound with movement. I've never had that much trouble learning to dance to any kind of music. Yet, I had, without meaning to, invested so much time experiencing tango music as a solitary, isolated event. It was a break from people, not a connection to people. Now I needed to connect to the music via movement, and connect to my partner - and- connect to the other dancers on the floor. It was a whole new world.

I can't place when the change happened. How slow or how fast. Though the change in my relationship to the music wasn't at all sudden - my realization of the change was like a bolt of lightening. When I realized it wasn't just the music I was addicted to, or even just the dancing (in isolation of everything else) - it was the milonga. Somewhere there had been a fork in the road and I had chosen a path without even realizing it.

And now there's no going back.

I'm still a tango baby. Almost 8 months old. Yet my life, all the things I need to do/plan/manage, revolves around the milonga schedule. Even my poor, patient husband has to check with my tango calendar to see when I'm available for non-tango events. I couldn't have started this path without his support and encouragement. He's been with me, though not dancing, every step of the way.

My relationship with the music has changed the most. When a tango plays (or a vals, or a milonga) it's so hard to sit still. The movement feels built into melody. How did I ever sit still for this? This isn't to say I have an easy time being on, or dancing on, the music. The quicker the tempo. the worse I am at it. But I'm trying. I'm learning.

The most unexpected transformation is how listening to the music by myself has changed. Listening to tango alone, even though I still enjoy it, feels lonelier. Or, maybe I'm more aware of the fact that I'm listening to it by myself. It's every bit as beautiful and moving, and I listen to it every single day - frequently by myself. But part of me is always thinking, I'd rather be listening to this at the milonga.

I'd rather be dancing.

I am not a milonguera. Not yet. It will be a very, very long time before I earn the right to call myself that. But when I grow up in this tango world, and I'm no longer a tango baby, I want to be a milonguera.


Tina said...

Well it sounds like it's already in your soul... :-)

Anonymous said...

When we first start, we have no idea where we will end up. And it never is where we thought.

Eduardo Castro said...

Hi Mari,

Could it be possible that there are different types and levels of milongueros and milogueras? What are the characteristics of a milonguera or milonguero?


Level 1: A beginner milonguero. (Anyone who goes to a milonga once in a while, dance socially rather than 'show' tango)

Level 2: "Life without tango would be a meaningless vacuum". (Goes to milongas every day)

Level 3: Defines the tango world. (It's a knows milonguero or milonguera and new milongueros or milongueras look up to her/him)
"A title given by other tango dancers to a man (woman) who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of tango"


1) They are inspired by the music to dance. (Know each orchestra, singers, lyrics,
2) Dances close embrace and without choreography.
3) Don't dance to show off or for exercise. (Lead very gently using the entire body)
4) They dance with feeling to please their partner.
5) Tango is not a routine for them.
6) They want to dance well or not at all.
7) They respect others and the codes and customs of the milonga.
8) They learned by watching others, but developed their own unique style.
9) They dance self-centered--for themselves and their partners.

Mari said...

Tina and Johanna - I think you're both right.

Eduardo - I think it's a spectrum. There are different ways to be a tanguero or a milonguero. Some might say that "beginner milonguero" is a contradiction in terms, though.

And would you say that "life without tango is a meaningless vacuum?" or "life without the milonga would be a meaningless vacuum"?