Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ask Helaine Part 1: Are these figures part of Milonguero Style?

Today’s question comes from Michael Daniels, whose website is http://tangopassion.org/  Actually, Michael asks two questions, so I’ll respond in a Part 1 and a Part 2!

"Hello Helaine,

"I am wondering if you consider Colgada, Enganche, Boleo, Calesita, Gancho as part of Milonguero Style.

"I'd also like to know which figures you like to teach."

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Thank you for your questions, Michael!

It’s interesting that you’re asking me about Milonguero Style, when I’m known as a specialist in Tango Salon!  But I’ve danced with many Milonguero Style dancers over the last two decades, and watched many more, so I’ll do my best to answer your first question.   

Readers, if you don’t recognize these figures by their names, you’ll find both video demonstrations on Youtube and text descriptions of them in articles online.

Let’s look at each figure you mention, Michael:

1) A Colgada in tango is an off-axis movement, in which both partners “hang” (colgar) slightly away from each other, with the energy “away” happening at the hip rather than shoulder level.  Like the Volcada (meaning “tipped over” or “dumped”), in which the woman is brought off axis toward her partner, Colgadas are often used in Tango Nuevo.  It is absolutely not a figure used in traditional Milonguero Style.  The partners’ act of pulling away from each other in the Colgada is antithetical to Milonguero Style.

I’ll add however, that there are many people whose tango is a hybrid of styles, and they mix elements in their tango from forms as disparate as Milonguero Style and Tango Nuevo. But you are asking about Milonguero Style.

I'll talk about Enganches and Ganchos together, since they are both about hooking legs. 

2) First Ganchos:  I suspect that Ganchos, meaning “hooks”, originated with the bold and sometimes bawdy Orillero Style, a form of tango in the early 1900's that developed in the outskirts of Buenos Aires where there was plenty of room on the dance floor.  It was a vigorous, athletic form, danced mostly in open embrace. I think that many elements of show tango, starting with the early “Tango Fantasia” were adopted from the old Tango Orillero.  (Note:  That Ganchos originated in the early 1900’s is my as-yet-unverified estimation!)


Ganchos are sharp movements, often intrusive, sometimes even violent. They usually require turning one partner’s body away from the other, breaking the frontality of the embrace.  For these reasons, they too are antithetical to Milonguero Style. 

Milonguero Style evolved in the very late 1900's as a form of dancing that made very crowded milongas manageable, and with its very close embrace it became more about sharing emotion and feeling for the music than about “moves”.  

Additionally, outward Ganchos can be very dangerous in a tightly packed milonga, because of the sharp upward motion of the dancer’s foot - unless the man leading knows how to position the Gancho precisely under his or his partner’s elbow, so that it’s strictly within their space.  In my earlier days of learning tango, I received many bruises from expressive intermediate level dancers using Ganchos in milongas. Then people where I lived started making pilgrimages to Buenos Aires and they abandoned Ganchos in milongas.  Ganchos are more suited to exhibitions or dancing for fun in open embrace.

When used in social tango, I find Ganchos vulgar and inappropriate, because they force intrusive contact between partners’ thighs, usually a place where only lovers have physical contact. If there is already a playful relationship between partners, in an informal environment, Ganchos can be lots of fun. In a performance, they make a sharp statement and when combined with speed, can show the dancers‘ virtuosity.  

Bottom line: Ganchos are not part of Milonguero Style.

3)  Next, Enganches:  Cousins of Ganchos, Enganches are “leg wraps”, which also involve hooking the partner’s leg, but usually more softly, at various heights and from various directions.  I learned about Enganches in my early Tango Nuevo classes when I was a student. (There’s a clue.) Sometimes traditional Tango Salon social dancers lead below-the-knee Enganches.  I have “stolen” a few subtle ones very close to the floor, flirting with a partner’s ankle. In Milonguero Style, it’s rare that I have that opportunity, probably because of the infrequency of pauses and distance between the partners' feet.  

Enganches of the upper leg would belong to Tango Nuevo or other contemporary forms.

Enganches are not part of traditional Milonguero Style.  

4) Boleos:  Small, subtle Boleos with the woman’s foot on the ground, close to her axis can be led in Milonguero Style, because they only require a reversal of her pivot.  But they are not part of traditional Milonguero Style, and are rarely led by those dancers in Buenos Aires.  High Boleos, never.  Those are show-moves.

5) A Calesita, in which the woman is held in her axis and pivoted, as the man walks around her, can probably easily used in Milonguero Style.  The Calesita allows you to change direction in an elegant way and also see what’s going on around you. I can’t recall with precision, but I would expect partial, if any Calesitas, to be used more in traditional Milonguero Style, rather than 360 degrees.  

Bottom line:  the Calesita can be used in Milonguero Style, though it is not specifically a Milonguero Style movement.

In tomorrow’s Video of the Week I’ll show you a classic example (or two) of Milonguero Style tango, and you’ll see that these figures are completely absent!

In the next post, you'll find my response to Part 2 of Michael's question:  "I'd also like to know which figures you like to teach."

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Have any observations or feedback?  Please share it with us in the comments area below this post!

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1 comment:

  1. Watching Osvaldo, there is something that disturbs me (a lot). He steps on a bent leg.
    Here I am borrowing from a catalog of walking mistakes:
    Instead of using good technique by standing tall over a straight leg, and stepping onto a straight leg we stand with the knees bent, and step onto a bent knee:
    This is called "Caminan con las rodillas" (Walking on the knees), or Creeping.
    I have not seen that with any stage dancers (Carlitos etc) or in many milongueros clips.
    Jiri

    April 20, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    ReplyDelete