What is going on with Tango here? How did it change so much? Those of us who have danced in other countries or are from other countries and now live here, maybe understand what has happened, then again, maybe not.
When I first came to Buenos Aires in 2000, the tango was very different. Many of the milongueros were still alive. This term now a days is used quite flippantly. A milonguero was a man who lived only for his tango. A milonguera - the woman, as well. What did this mean? It means they spent all of their time in the milonga listening to the music. They only danced when there was a tanda they really loved AND there was someone to share this passion of the tanda. The ability to transmit your passion and have the other person receive it and transmit it back was nothing words could describe.
There were more men in the milongas than women. I remember being intimidated by the number of men. It seemed that there were so few women. The few milongueros that actually worked always went to the afternoon milongas and then on to the night milongas if they could. A milonguero was rarely ever married, and if he was he never talked about his wife or even dared to bring her to a milonga. In the life of a milonguero, there was only one love - his tango. Nothing else would come before his tango. Maybe a lonely life, but the life they chose.
Today, many people think a milonguero can be anyone who dances tango and is crazy about it. No. That is a tanguero. A milonguero is a special type of person. How do I explain this? Just because you love computers and sit in front of one whenever you can, does not make you a hacker or a geek. You are simply a person who loves computers. Hackers (do not confuse with crackers please) and geeks are very special people.
In 2000 when I came here and the following years, there were not 400 teachers. There were not 200 stores to buy shoes at. (OK I am exaggerating..a little.) There were not extended weekend seminars with the "stars." There were only 2 magazines - BA Tango and Tanguata. Now there are many magazines. There seems to be a new one every week. BA Tango and Tanguata along with the newbie La Milonga are slick glossy rags full of advertising.
There are tango hotels where they bring in the teachers, calculate your every move, kind of like Club Med for Tango dancers. There is yoga for tango dancers, pilates called Tangolates, and many other businesses now designed to get the money of those who dance tango.
I can assure you these businesses along with the shoes, clothes, and CDs are not for the people who live here. They can't really afford it. Tango shoes are now 240 pesos or more for a pair of women's shoes. You can buy a pair of nice leather shoes for 130 pesos in most of the shoe stores. Most of the Argentines do not go out and buy 6 pair of shoes to dance tango in. Many of my friends have 1 pair of shoes, maybe two. They fix them until they can no longer be fixed. One of my guests noted that many of the men who dance tango here do not even wear tango shoes. They wear street shoes. The same with many of the women, as noted above.
The biggest change is in the dancing itself. There are fewer and fewer good dancers. Why? Because there are fewer and fewer good teachers. Who wants to learn to walk when someone else can teach them to do something flashier? Sadly just like in the U.S. and in Europe many teachers here are teaching patterns? Why? Hmmmm...greed.
I referred a friend to Mimi's class. He agreed she was a good teacher, but boring. "She only teaches how to walk and turn." he said to me. At the other classes he goes to he is learning all these "great steps." Only he can't do them with anyone outside his class because he does not know how to lead them.
He tried to show me one of them. I winced as I watched him move through the pattern, head down, arms closed to close, and knees bent. "Isn't this cool?" he asked me. I didn't comment. Then he took me to dance it with him. Only I could not. There was no lead. None whatsoever. His looking down was a pull on my balance. "You need to come to this class with me." He insisted. "Then you could dance this step." Ahhhh, so this is my fault. I don't accept this. "You need to learn to lead." I tell him. "I don't need a class to learn any steps, I only need someone to lead me." This is not a concept he understands. An Argentine who lives here.
The government "discovered" tango in 2003. It was a way to bring in the tourists. They began a marketing campaign. They backed dancers to put on seminars. Tango Week used to be a small celebration. Now it is a huge celebration spread out all over the city. It brings in those foreign dollars that stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, buy tango shoes, CDs, clothes, leather and maybe travel to other parts of Argentina.
Now the government runs seminars for the tango business owners to teach them how to maximize their marketing. Brainstorming sessions on how to make more money, how to capture more people. Tango is big business boys and girls. Everyone wants your money.
I remember Pocho telling me to feel the music, to let the music take me away. To let how I feel control my feet, my body. This is not to be confused to what people rag about as musicality. Feeling the music is completely different. Who talks about feeling, unless it is feeling down because you are out of money and can't buy more shoes or stay longer?
People on Tango-L and other tango sites think they have the right to dance however they want and to call it Argentine tango. Money talks. Now, the tango once danced in Argentina is fading away. Replaced by another tango. No regard for a culture, the codigos, the music. It has moved from a dance of the heart to a dance of the pocketbook.