The Tango and Trapeze Acts
by Cacho Dante, Milonguero de Buenos Aires
Thirty years ago, the tango wasn't a trapeze act. It didn't have
choreographies, and the woman was not just a follower, she was to whom
the tango was dedicated. Around that time, under the pressure of the
dictatorship in Argentina, many milongueros stopped dancing. They were
tired of getting picked up by the authorities every weekend to see if
they had a police record.
Some milongueros went back to the neighborhood clubs where they had to
dance with their neighbors, their cousins, the sisters of friends all
under the watchful eyes of mothers. It was an enormous bore.
The guys at that time had already surpassed the stage of steps. They
had already passed through the filter: When they didn't really know
how to dance, they did 20 steps; when the knew a bit more, they did
10; and when they really knew what they were doing, they danced
five, but with real quality.
The rest they learned from the orchestras at the time: how to navigate
the dance floor; how to lead the rhythm. They danced then to some of
the best orchestras live every day, Osvaldo Pugliese, Anibal Troilo,
Juan D'Arienzo, Francisco Canaro, Alfredo Gobbi, etc.
Later, everything changed. The tango climbed onto the trapeze and
became choreographed. And it became a dance of the deaf. The dance
floor today also sometimes seems like a war zone. Women don't even get
the chance to choose their partners. Men snatch them from the tables
as if they were fruit in a supermarket bin.
When some of the milongueros returned to dance, myself included, we
wanted to be in style, to learn choreographies. But it was late for
that because for us it was more important to be appreciated by the
woman than to be admired by those who liked to be seen. Women chose
the tango milonguero. They embraced the old guys and then later
embraced the young ones as well. Even if we milongueros are fat and
bald, we still carry our heads high and have plenty of women to dance
Sometimes you hear that tango milonguero will die with the last
milonguero. But those who say that don't seem to be aware that the
last one is only 17 years old and is already teaching the dance.
Nowadays, we dance to orchestras and singers that are long gone. The
sons of the great orchestra leaders, as children do, did not listen to
their parents. Today, unfortunately, there isn't really any new music
to dance to. The orchestras now knock themselves out to follow the
singers, whereas in the old days the singer was just another
The tango, some say, is growing. Others say it is getting fat. I
believe it is swollen, like someone who has eaten too much. Luckily,
the example of the milonguero exists and it is not by chance nor just
because it is something in vogue that some young people here and other
people abroad dance in a close embrace and fly. To fly, you must have
your feet firmly on the earth. We Pugliese fans plant our feet on the
dance floor and we fly with our torsos. There is no other way to dance
the silences and the pauses. With D'Arienzo, you dance in fourth gear,
with Pugliese, in first. For Pugliese, you must lower the turns and
with D'Arienzo, lift them.
The tango is a feeling that is danced. That's why it is not
choreographed, though it can have sequences, like all feelings. You
can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. The tango is
not a dance to demonstrate ability but rather an interpretation of
feeling. It is not just moving your feet and posturing. The tango is
Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and
Guys, to dance tango, you must listen to the heart of the woman.
written in November 1998 by Cacho Dante, Milonguero de Buenos Aires
Cacho teaches master classes on Tango Milonguero around the world.