Milonga, the dance that can be sweet and spicy at the same time!
I had always loved the music but in the beginning couldn’t get a hang of it. I preferred to sit and enjoy listening and looking at people dancing away than dancing to it. Thankfully that has changed!
How is Milonga different from Tango
The first thing that had messed me up is treating the Milonga as a fast Tango.
Milonga is not a fast Tango, it is a different dance and different music altogether.
In this paragraph we will see the key differences between the two dances.
- Starting with the music, we have a different structure in the Milonga, which is on 2 beats whereas the Tango is on 4
- In terms of our position on the dance floor. When we dance Milonga we have the open side of the embrace facing the dance line, therefore the leader is facing to the outer edge of the room, whereas in Tango the leader is facing the dance line. This difference in placement allows us a double side step in the Milonga, which is very characteristic of this dance and forbidden in Tango.
- Floor navigation is also different between the two. In Tango we don’t stay at the same spot, we cover more ground, navigate around the dance floor respecting. In the Milonga we don’t cover that much ground and staying at the same spot is generally allowed within reason of course. That is mostly because we are dancing at a faster tempo
- To accommodate for the faster tempo, we need a different movement strategy. We don’t have time to shape the movement since we have to act fast and so we keep a more “centred” posture, arranging the head, torso and hips in the middle and moving within the neutral range of our joints instead of reaching at the edges of flexion or extension
- Taking a look now on the embrace, in Tango we don’t see partners changing their orientation towards one another. In one of the most characteristic Milonga steps, the Zig-Zac, partners are offset to one another and switch sides during the step. Something we never see in Tango, or if we do it is only as an accent
- Also forbidden in Tango but common in Milonga is shifting the weight as we pivot.
- Lastly, especially in the Milonga Lisa a swing of the shoulders is a strong characteristic. In Tango we rarely see it and if we do it shows up as an accent.
Going back in history
Going back in the history we can find a relationship between the Milonga and the Cuban Habanera with the former being characterized as an excited habanera. Nestor Marconi, the famous bandoneonista, had said though that Candombe gives Milonga its edge, the strong staccato, the upbeat and the syncopation. So we have swing from the Habanera and the beat from Candombe.
There are two styles of Milonga, the Milonga Lisa and the Milonga con traspie or double time.
The difference between the two is the speed and the textures.
Milonga Lisa is slower and has more swing which allows us to play with the upper body, swinging the shoulders. The Milonga con traspie is faster and accentuating the beat.
So we need to capture and express each style to the appropriate music and not use the slower versions to dance fast and vice versa
We need to go slower and swing through the movements in Milonga Lisa. Go fast and accentuate the beat in
Milonga con traspie. Be true to the spirit of the music.
Lets talk about the BEAT!
Talking about speed; we also have 3 different characteristic speeds:
- In the first we alternate the downbeat from the right to the left foot. So if we have 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, we would be stepping on 1 and transitioning on 2.
It would be: Right-transition, left-transition, right- transition, left-transition. The upbeat therefore is not marked
- For the second speed, we have the downbeat on one foot and the upbeat on the other. So we would have: right- left, right-left, if say we are marking the downbeat with the right
- And the third speed, we have the down and the upbeat on the same foot: right-right, right-right, right-right
Of course the first speed is the slowest the third is the fastest. Take a look on how you can practice the different speeds
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