Colección Berlin

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Do it the Milonga Way!

Katharina Joite

The term ‘milonga’ has several connotations in the world of Tango. The African word gained popularity in Argentina and Uruguay in the late nineteenth century as a type of singing style. However, it is used in a different context and not merely limited to a style of singing. Here we shall discuss the different types of Milonga and how it is used in the present context.
Milonga is mainly categorized into three forms:   

1. Music genre
Milonga is often known as a type of tango music genre which is upbeat and where the dancers usually make quick steps followed by strategized improvisations. As already discussed, it owes its origin to pockets of Argentina and has triggered the concept Tango music with characteristics of Cuban habanera, polka and payada de contrapunto.

2. Dance form
Milonga is also a popular tango dance form danced to milonga tango music. It is often considered to be much more freestyle and easygoing than the traditional somber tango style  but it is also much faster. It mainly focuses on the rhythm of the milonga music and more rustic in style. Pauses are less common. Milonga style of dancing might include open or closed embrace and is categorized into Milonga Lisa and Milonga con Traspié. Milonga Lisa requires the dancers to take a cue from the exact beats of the tango tunes.  Milonga con Traspié, on the other hand, requires the dancers to use contrapasos (or Traspiés) and to strategically take their weight from one foot to another in double time or three steps in one beat. 

3. Social event
Interestingly, Milonga is also known as a social event where Argentine tango is danced. This is where tango dancers and enthusiasts gather. A milonga might start with classes or a practice lesson and include a demonstration dance. The music is generally played in series of tandas (in a row) and each tanda consists of 3-4 songs of a kind. A tanda is usually followed by a cortina - a break up piece of any kind that gives the dancers time to leave the dance floor and change partners. 

Things to keep in mind
There are certain unwritten ground rules which you need to keep in mind before you head to a milonga.

  • Wear a well-fitted tango outfit that compliments your moves.  Also, make sure you wear the right tango shoes to assure comfort and flexibility. For tangueras there are a variety of tango collections to choose their outfits from. Those looking to buy classic tango dresses, skirts and tops, could start shopping tango outfits online here.
  • If you’re a beginner then you might want to talk to your tango teacher and learn the basic etiquettes that should be maintained when you attend a milonga. There are a few very important rules around how to move around the dance floor, how to ask to dance and how many dances to dance with one partner.
  • If you love Milonga music, take some good dance classes before you hit the dance floor for a Milonga tanda so you know what to do and do not disturb the other dancers. It can get hectic on the dance floor so it is important to be prepared.

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