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Monday, 28 March 2011

How would you like your piropo?

Adios ángel con alas en los pies. (Farewell angel, with winged feet). Ladies, how might you feel if after dancing together, a tanguero whispered this to you? Or, De qué estrella te caíste? (Which star did you fall from?) Would you feel outrage for being objectified by a man? Or pleasure at the chivalrous attention?

A year or so ago, when the award-winning Argentine feature film El secreto de sus ojos (The secret in their eyes) was released here, an ex-patriot porteño expressed delight with several piropos (flirtatious compliments), peppered through the early part of the movie. I think that he felt a twinge of nostalgia for his home-town and the local practice of a man expressing appreciation for a woman, traditionally done in clever, poetic form. This has been described as the habit of delivering a verbal flower to the ladies that pass by … (Sergio). A crude wolf-whistle hardly has the same effect!

Call me old-fashioned, but IMHO the piropo belongs perfectly in traditional tango culture, where the woman is respected and treasured. Men are macho, but not in the sense often used by gringos. Totango’s article about male & female roles, and tango gender equality provides a revealing insight into this side of tango.

Some say that the piropo is dying out, losing its poetry and becoming more mundane. Certainly Qué ojos! (What eyes!) is less likely to enchant, than Dame de tus ojos la alegría y de tu boca dame la vida (From your eyes give me joy and from your lips give me life) Luis Alberto. Perhaps Argentine men are becoming a little too busy and too stressed nowadays to come up with witty metaphors.

On the other hand, for Valentine’s Day this year, the organisers of La Milonguita ran a competition for the best piropo. The many clever entries show that this tradition is alive and well after all, at least in Argentina!


Thursday, 17 March 2011

What makes a good milonga?

There are many elements that contribute to you saying as you travel home, “that was a good milonga”. Four stand out in my opinion:

Welcoming organisers
They make you feel that you belong and therefore influence the mood of the dancers. Visitors are especially made to feel welcome; shown to where they can sit, and maybe introduced to local dancers.

The codes
This concerns the milonga behaviour that the organisers promote, and the respect which the dancers, in return, have for the codes of the particular milonga. The codes will influence the dancers’ floor-craft and can enhance the harmony, trust, relaxation, sense of community, and cooperation during the milonga.

The venue
Ideally, it is visually appealing, has good ambience and suitable floor. The furniture can be arranged around the dance space to bring the dancers and the ‘watchers’ close…. as well as providing good visual contact for the cabeceo. The venue needs to ‘retain’ the energy of the dancers, rather than allowing it to dissipate. It needs a good sound system which is loud enough to ‘carry’ the dancers, without being harsh on the ears - the music needs to envelope the dancers.

The music
Even if the other elements don’t quite measure up, you simply can’t get past this one. If the music doesn’t work, then it’s unrealistic to think it can be a good milonga. The music is crucial in determining and charting the mood of dancers from the beginning of the milonga to its end. It needs to be the result of knowledgeable and extensive preparation – there are no short-cuts. Near enough is not good enough, and is in fact a long way from ‘satisfactory’, let alone ‘exhilarating’, when it comes to the music.

You can read more on this topic on Tango Australia in Music maketh the milonga

…. and to see all of this coming together, take a look at the recent opening of Cachirulo at Villa Malcolm, where you’ll see organizers Héctor & Norma, DJ Carlos Rey, the codes printed in several languages, great floor-craft and a beautiful venue.


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