Excerpt from my interview with videographer, Ralph Olsen, dear friend, a favorite milonguero, creator of “Last Third Best Third.” Complete text and video are on his website and You Tube.
The following describes where a gentleman’s quest and journey should lead.
What is a true Milonguero? There are certain things that distinguish a Milonguero from a typical dancer, in that there’s certain things that a Milonguero always does and things that he never does. One of the things he never does is walk up to a woman and ask her to dance. One of the things that he always does is make sure that his partner is safe and comfortable.
The foundation underneath each of those is respect which is shown by how he stands, how he’s groomed, his manners, and how he approaches other people, including his partners.
One of the traditional characteristics of Argentine Tango is the cabeceo, making eye contact with someone to invite them to dance. Because tango is based on a culture that is different from ours, the cabeceo is an integral part of the overall etiquette, and part of showing respect for the dance is learning the system. The cabeceo is an essential part of the system and is helpful in a very important way.
A milonguero makes one hundred percent sure that the woman he is inviting has agreed agrees to dance with him, and the only way he can do that is to obtain her approval before he approaches her. Otherwise, after he’s started across the floor, if she suddenly turns away or shakes her head no, he’s likely to be devastated and/or embarrassed, and has to walk away or leave the floor knowing that everyone may have observed the rejection.
The next two criteria of defining a true Milonguero are his concern, preparation and assurance for his partner’s safety and comfort. As in driving a car, or taking a woman for a walk, if his partner feels safe, she can relax in his embrace, enjoy the music, and enjoy their time together. If she is concerned about whether she will be taken care of or if something is uncomfortable, she will remain tense and no matter how “advanced” his dancing might be, she will remain uneasy.
When a milonguero enters the floor and merges with traffic, he looks to the oncoming traffic, makes eye contact with the leader who is just about to come in front of him and makes sure he has permission before stepping into line of dance.
Another characteristic of Milongueros is knowing how to interpret his partner’s responses. If he is listening to her, and the music, and putting those things together, he’s actually dancing for her, as well as with her. He’s not dancing for himself and not dancing with his ego, he’s dancing with her pleasure in mind. This detail helps create the kind of dance that leaves a women weak in the knees and eager to dance with that person again.
A true Milonguero is more concerned about being a desirable partner than an excellent dancer. Excellent dancers are wonderful. They’re a part of our culture, they’re a part of tango, but if both partners are not comfortable or feel safe, mutual pleasure will remain a fantasy.
Men who dance with me are actually dancing for their pleasure and I’m along for the ride. Men who dance for me, focus on my weight changes, and my responses to their leads. Men who lead gently, clearly, musically, I respond to with my own style, my own little flourishes perhaps, or tiny embellishments depending on the music and he knows I’m hearing him clearly and not just along for the ride. Milongueros pay close attention to details, and details make the difference between so-so tango and snd indescribably delicious Argentine Tango.
When a milonguero leaves the floor, he walks his partner back to her place and brings closure to their time together. There’s a closing moment that lets each other know yes, I would like to do this again with you sometime. Or, eh, maybe not. I can still feel the magic of certain dances from long ago.
So how do women respond to dancing with a true milonguero? You mean besides the gleam in their eye, smile on their lips, and appearing to walk slightly above the floor? Ask one.