Milonguero Style Tango
The Milongueros are the tango dancers who have spent their lives in the milongas of Buenos Aires. The last of this lineage of dancers from the Golden Era of tango (1935 to 1952) are now in their eighties. They are social dancers who developed their dance within the limits of crowded milongas. As such, their figures are compact, easily navigated, and safe for dancers nearby. For the most part they dance chest to chest in a close, intimate embrace. Their dance, based on walking, was developed by regular people, not professional dancers, and so by its nature is accessible to everyone.
Most milongueros do not identify their tango as that associated with flash or posturing. They dance with and for their partners, not for audiences. They dance playfully, passionately, and improvisationally, rather than dancing from choreography. The best of them show a freedom and naturalness of movement, and they believe tango is about a feeling of oneness with their partners and shared self-expression. Most Milongueros adhere to the códigos (or tango etiquette) that form the social structure and behavior within the salons. These codes ensure an optimum dance experience for all participating dancers at the milongas.
The term “Milonguero Style” refers to a form of tango that imitates the way tango was danced in Buenos Aires during the Golden Era of tango. It has become the predominant form of tango danced in the salons of Buenos Aires today. However, the term “Milonguero Style” was invented by Oscar “Cacho” Dante and Susana Miller in the 1990’s to distinguish it from what was called “Salon Tango” outside Argentina.
Confusion had arisen around the terminology of “Salon Tango” at that time. For example, in the United States, Salon Tango most often referred to a form of tango brought to North Americans by stage tango performers traveling with tango shows in the 1980’s. Partners dance in a V shaped embrace and the embrace opens and closes to execute various figures. It is characterized by large steps and figures such as high boleos, back sacadas, and long choreographed sequences of steps. While visually appealing to audiences watching dancers on a stage, this form of tango is generally unsuitable for social dancing at milongas because of the room the choreography requires and the dangers it creates for other dancers nearby.
In Argentina, Salon Tango (or Tango Salón) refers to the way tango is danced socially in the dance halls (the “Salons”) of Buenos Aires. This includes Milonguero Style as well as other forms. It is not unusual to hear milongueros who danced tango the 1940’s, but who dance in different ways from each other, all refer to their way of dancing tango as Tango Salón, including dancers that use the apilado embrace of Milonguero Style. Many will ignore the widely varied history of the dance and adamantly proclaim that their way of dancing tango is the only way to correctly dance tango, and all others are wrong. Still others will happily share a name that they made up for the way they dance tango, or the way others dance tango. However, term “Milonguero Style” is rarely used by the milongueros who actually danced tango during the Golden Era.
All this posturing on what tango is and what it should be called makes it difficult for those outside of Argentina to understand what the terms mean. Simply remember that Salon Tango is any form of Argentine Tango that can be danced in a socially responsible way at a milonga, and that Milonguero Style, as a socially responsible form of Argentine Tango, falls under the heading of Salon Tango. Then accept that in Argentine Tango there is a lot of posturing, territorialism, commercialism, and inaccurate information (even from the Argentines themselves) that will probably never go away. It is the nature of such a dance that stirs up the passions of so many people.