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Juan D'Arienzo: A Biography (Long)

Juan D’Arienzo (December 14, 1900-January 14, 1976) was a violinist, pianist, band leader and composer. His nickname was “El Rey del Compás” (The King of the Beat). D’Arienzo was born on December 14th, 1900 in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Balvanera. His orchestra is considered one of the "Big Four" orchestras of Argentine tango. 

Part 1: Introduction and Early Career (1900 to 1934)

Part 2: Tango Cancíon and The Guardia Nueva: The Lead Up to D'Arienzo

Part 3: The D'Arienzo Revolution (1935 to 1939)

Part 4: Re-Invention and the Final Years (1940 to 1975)

Part 5: References and Resources

Interview with Juan Topalian

Interesting interview with Juan Topalian. He plays a live radio recording from 1947 of Di Sarli playing a version of "Nido Gaucho" where the first part is sung in Spanish and the second part in English.

He also discusses an outdoor milonga where the dance floor was the size of 20 basketball courts and where 10,000 people danced.



Tango y Jazz - Oscar Aleman

I was just watching an interview with Nélida Fernando and she mentioned going to the club to hear Juan D'Arienzo and Oscar Alemán. I was curious if he was a singer or leader of an orquestra that I had never heard. So, I started doing some research and here is what I have found.

Oscar Alemán was an Argentine jazz guitarist born in 1909. He was considered one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time, on the same level with Django Reinhardt.

He came from a family of performers and musicians. His mother was of the Toba, a native Argentine people. As a child, he travelled to Brazil with his father. Shortly after this, tragedy struck, his mother died and his father committed suicide. He lived on the streets and at age 14 created a duo, Les Loups, with Gastón Bueno Lobos. 

In 1926, they travelled to Buenos Aires. In December of 1927, they recorded their first 78, which included the tango "Hawianita" and the wonderful vals "Criollita." It is worth noting that on "Criollita," Lobo is playing a cavaquinho, which is a 4 string ukelele type of instrument, while Alemán is playing guitar.


In 1928, they record "La Cumparsita."

During this time, Alemán and Lobo also performed as part of Trio Victor for the Victor record label with violinist Elvino Vardaro. Here is their recording of "Recondita" from 1929. Alemán also played guitar for other Tango artists such as Rosita Quiroga. You can usually tell that it is him, because of the unique sound of his Hawaiian guitar.

I should mention that most of his music was Jazz and not Tango, the songs above are a very small portion of his work. In 1929, Alemán and Lobos travelled to Europe to support the dancer Harry Fleming.  After the tour, Alemán stayed in Spain. He later travelled to Germany and France. In France, he discovered American jazz and met Josephine Baker. He ended up leading her orchestra, known as the "Baker Boys" at the Cafe de Paris. During his time in Europe, he also played with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. When Germany invaded France, in 1940, he returned to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Oscar Aleman with Josephine Baker

Now is where we get back to what prompted me to do this research. Why was he mentioned in the same breath as D'Arienzo. It turns out that in the mid to late 1940s, Alemán's jazz groups used to play at clubs along with Juan D'Arienzo and these gigs were labelled as "Tango y Jazz." So, if I am understanding correctly, they would switch off playing sets. Back then, when you went to a club, you would hear tango, foxtrot, folk music, jazz, etc.

Here is an interesting video of Alemán playign at a club from a movie titled "El Idolo del Tango" from 1943. What I find interesting is that, it seems that one band or orchestra ends playing and he comes onto the stage and begins to play jazz/swing and the audience still dances with a tango like embrace. Then he gets off the stage and clearly begins dancing swing. So, when they are dancing tango type steps to the swing music, are they dancing alternative tango? ;-)

Again, the majority of his recording career, which spanned from 1927 to 1972, was almost all jazz. Here is a beautiful version of "Milonga Triste," from 1954.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, he is considered one of the greatest jazz guitarists, so here is his rendition of the classic "Sweet Georgia Brown." This is one of the best versions of this song that I have heard, you can hear his genius and that he really makes it his own.

He was friend with Django Reinhardt and supposedly he would fill in for Django when he livedi n Paris, when Django would not show up for shows. Here is what he had to say about Django,  "I knew Django Reinhardt well. He used to say - jazz was gipsy - we often argued over that. I agree with many Americans I met in France who said he played very well but with too many gipsy tricks. He had very good technique for both hands, or rather one hand and a pick, because he always played with a pick. Not me, I play with my fingers. There are things you can't do with a pick - you can't strike the treble with two fingers and play something else on the bass string. - But I admired him and he was my friend. He was my greatest friend in France. We played together many times, just for ourselves. I used to go to his wagon, where he lived. I've slept and eaten there - and also played! He had three or four guitars. Django never asked anyone to go to his wagon, but he made an exception with me. I appreciated him, and I believe the feeling was mutual".

And a comment he made about the tango of Piazzolla, Troilo and Salgán:

"They are two different things. Piazzolla introduces a lot of jazz into tango, Troilo has a pure way of playing. It doesn’t mean he’s a better bandoneon player or a better musician. I regard Piazzolla as a great musician. Salgán is also greatly influenced by jazz, I love him, he’s got much musicality inside."

He died in Buenos Aires in 1980 at 71.


More Information:

Todo Tango
Tango Reporter


1904 Men Dancing Together in the River in Buenos Aires

Great picture of men dancing together from the 1904 in the river. This comes from the Archivo General de la Nación? in Buenos Aires.

There are actually many theories as to why men danced together in the early days of Tango. I think there is some truth in all of them.

1. This was a time when women were not out in public as much as men. Women were in the house and if they went out in public or to public events then they were accompanied by a male relative. Men learned to dance with one another on street corners, clubs and as this picture shows anywhere they could gather.

Women learned primarily in their homes from their brothers, fathers or mothers. So, men would HAVE practice with one another unless they had a female relative to practice with and women were few and far between. Most Buenos Aires was one of the busiest cities in the world and was enjoying mass immigration from Europe, but this was mostly men coming for jobs while their families stayed back home.

2. There were simply not many women to dance with, so men HAD to practice in order to get good enough to dance with the few women that were around. Some estimates state that men outnumbered women 7 to 1, at the turn of the century. This was also still a time when Tango was considered a lower class activity, so many women would have refused to dance this obscene dance.

3. It is also thought that perhaps the early, early Tango was a primarily male dance. That its early origins were on the outskirts by Argentine Cowboys gauchos who would dance around their campfires competing with one another doing very athletic movements and that tango became more tame as women became more and more involved.


The Role of the Tango Orchestra Singer

I often get asked about dancing to tangos with singers. The tango singer has had four distinctive roles over time:

  • National Singer (Cantor Nacional)
  • The Refrain Singer (Estbrillista)
  • The Orchestra Singer (Cantor de la Orchesta)
  • The Star Soloist

These roles are not tied to specific dates, and they often overlapped in time.

Why is this important for dancers and DJs? The role of the singer impacts the structure of the music. Understanding this structure can help us as dancers. For DJs, we should understand which tangos are meant for and are good for dancing. The tangos best for dancing are the ones which utilize the singer as estribillista or as cantor de la orchesta. I will explain why.

The National Singer (Cantor Nacional)

From the earliest days of tangos, singers would accompany guitarists (sometimes pianos) or “typical trios.” They would sing all the lyrics of a song including verses and choruses (refrain). These duos or groups would usually play tangos, valses, and milongas, along with folk songs such as zambas, rancheras, tonadas. These singers were called “cantor nacional,” and they would be able to sing in all of these styles. Below is an example of a typical tango duo Corsini y Magaldi with Ignacio Corsini singing and Agustin Magaldi on guitar. Notice that Corsini sings the full lyrics: verse, chorus, verse, chorus.

"Palomita Blanca" by Ignacio Corsini (singer) & Agustin Magaldi (guitar)


This type of singer would also be employed for the tango canción. These were songs that were not intended for dancing and were mostly sentimental in nature. The most famous tango canción was probably "Mi Noche Triste (My Sad Night)" recorded in 1917 by Carlos Gardel.

"Mi Noche Triste" by Carlos Gardel (1917)


Some of the famous "cantors  nacional" were Carlos Gardel, Ignacio Corsini, Hugo del Carril, Charlo, Agustín Magaldi, Alberto Gómez and Agustín Irusta.

The Refrain Singer (Estribillista)

When the orquesta típica was created in the early 1900s, they primarily played instrumentals. Sometimes a member of the orchestra might say something, but it was usually for humorous effect rather than singing. In his memoirs, Francisco Canaro claims that he was the first to use an estribillista in his orchestra. In 1927, he recorded his brother’s tango “Así es el Mundo,” which featured Roberto Díaz. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find a copy of this song.

So what defines an estribillista? An estribillista was restricted to singing a very small portion of the lyrics, usually the chorus (refrain) or just a single verse. They were considered just another instrument and were often not even mentioned on the record label and if they were then it was in very small type. Sometimes they were employed by a specific orchestra, but often they were employed by the recording label and would sing for all the orchestras under that label.
Some important estribillistas were: Ernesto Famá, Charlo, Teófilo Ibañez, Francisco Fiorentino, Roberto Ray, Carlos Dante, Agustín Irusta, Jorge Omar.

Table 1: Hearing the difference between an "estribillista" and a "cantor nacional"

Listen to these two versions of the same exact song:

"Casas Viejas" by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida


"Casas Viejas" by Francisco Canaro with Charlo y Ada Falcon


Would it surprise you to learn that both versions were recorded only a week apart? The Roberto Maida version was recorded on 8/16/1935 and the Charlo/Falcon version on 8/25/1935. Hmmmm... So why would Canaro do that?

Because there were two different audiences for tango music, the general public and dancers.

In the first version, Maida is acting as an "estribillista." He is at the service of the orchestra. He only sings for a short time and blends with the orchestra. Also, notice the strong walking beat (pulse) in the music. This version is for dancers. Now technically, he is not singing the chorus/refrain, he is singing the first verse of the song, but it is still just the first verse. He is not singing the full lyrics of the song (verse, chorus, verse), he is just singing 1/3 of the lyrics and does not even start singing until 1:39 into the song.

In the second version, Charlo and Ada Falcon are soloists or cantor nacional. The entire lyric gets sung, the first verse by Charlo and then Falcon joins in to make it a duet for the chorus and the final verse. The walking beat is not as clear and is in the background, the orchestra is in service of the singers. Sometimes the beat even completely disappears, this would be very difficult for dancers. This is not for dancing.

The Orchestra Singer (Cantor de la Orchesta)

In the mid-1930s and early 1940s, the role of the singer was evolving. The singer was becoming a more and more important member of the orchestra. People would come to shows or buy records to hear a particular singer. Orchestras and singers became more linked, for instance one might say Di Sarli y Rufino, Di Sarli y Podesta or Troilo y Fiorentino.

So what is the difference between an “estribillista” and a “cantor de la orchesta?” It is a combination of the emphasis put on the lyric and the length of time of the singing. For instance,  an “estribillista” would only get a single chorus or a single verse to sing (approx 30 seconds), but the “cantor de la orchesta” would get to sing a verse, a chorus and often a repeat of the chorus at the very end (60 seconds or more).  It is important to note that they were still a member of the orchestra and rarely got to sing the whole lyric. As with the "estribillista," they were still very much in service to the orchestra.

Generally, a typical tango goes verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, outro (coda). The “cantor de la orchesta” will generally enter the song on the 2nd verse or about 1 minute into the song. This is important for dancers! We get to hear one full verse and chorus without singing, so that we can feel the music and already be familiar with the accents of the music before the singer begins.

You can hear the transition from “estribillistas” into “cantors de la orchesta” beginning in the mid-1930s in Jorge Ortiz with Lomuto, Roberto Ray with Fresedo, Horacio Lagos with Donato and Roberto Maida with Francisco Canaro. But when we speak of “cantor de la orchesta,” some of the singers that we think of are Francisco Fiorentino and Alberto Marino with Troilo, Ángel Vargas with D’Agostino, Alberto Castillo and Enrique Campos with Tanturi, Raúl Berón with Caló, Roberto Rufino and Alberto Podesta with Di Sarli, Alberto Echagüe and Héctor Mauré with D’Arienzo.

After 1941, you can’t find many instrumentals, because of the popularity of the singers. It also marked a change in tango music to a more smooth, melodic sound.

Here are two good examples of the "cantor de la orchesta:"

"Tinta Roja" by Aníbal Troilo with Francisco Fiorentino


"Nada" by Carlos Di Sarli with Alberto Podesta


"Al Compas del Corazón" by Miguel Caló with Raúl Berón


"Tres Esquinas" by Ángel D'Agostino with Ángel Vargas


"Palomita Blanca" (1944) by Aníbal Troilo with Floreal Ruiz and Alberto Marino
This is the same song as above. In the above version, the singer sang all of the lyric and sang pretty much throughout the song. In this version, the singing does not begin until the 2 minute mark and the singers sing 1 verse and 1 chorus.


Table 2: Same Singer, Two Different Roles

As mentioned above, many singers transitioned from the role of the "estribillista" to that of a "cantor de la orchesta." Alberto Echagüe was one of these. Listen to the two tangos below. In "Pénsalo Bién," Echagüe is a classic example of an "estribillista." He only briefly sings the chorus. Just a year later, in "Trago Amargo," he is singing the first verse, the chorus, and a touch of the final verse. His role as expanded.

"Pénsalo Bién" by Juan d'Arienzo with Alberto Echagüe (1938)


"Trago Amargo" by Juan d'Arienzo with Alberto Echagüe (1939)


The Star Soloist

There is a reason that the vast majority of the music played at milongas is from the “golden decade (1935 to 1945)” and not from the “golden age (1935 to 1955)” of tango. In the mid-1940s, the singers began to become more important than the orchestras. In fact, many of the most popular singers left to start their own orchestras such as Alberto Castillo, Francisco Fiorentino and Ángel Vargas.

The distinguishing features of the soloist is that they are the star and the orchestra is more in the background and they sing the entire lyric of the song. This phenomenon became more pronounced as the youth of Argentina began to dance other dances and most tango music was more for listening. Some famous star soloists were Edmundo Rivero, Roberto Goyeneche, Alberto Morán, Miguel Montero, Jorge Vidal and Argentino Ledesma.

It should be noted that some orchestras, such as Di Sarli, kept a focus on the dancer while giving the singer more prestige.

"Tinta Roja" by Aníbal Troilo with Roberto Goyeneche
Notice the difference between this version and the version above. It is the same orchestra, but from a different time and with a different focus on the singer.


"Duelo Criollo" by Alberto Marino


"Sur" by Edmundo Rivero



For DJs and dancers, most of the music that we dance to has singers, but we primarily dance to singers when they are acting as an “estribillista” or “cantor de la orchesta.” Most of this music was recorded between 1935 and 1945, but there are exceptions.The main thing to listen for is if the singer sounds like he/she is above the orchestra, if the singer is much louder and you can not clearly hear the music then it is not good for dancing. Always keep in mind that the vast majority of tango music was not intended for dancers. Tango is about much more than dancing, it is also poetry, music, culture, art, etc.

Disclaimer: Yes. You might can find examples that don't fit these conclusions or time spans. What I am trying to look at here is what was the norm.

Here is a list of some of the sources that I used to put this article together:

Todo Tango's Article: The Tango Singer


Songs with Multiple Titles

Great version of this tango by Osvaldo Pugliese with Roberto Chanel. The title is "The men are forming the circle (la ronda)." La ronda refers to the dance floor or line of dance.

The original title was "Muchachos se armó la milonga," which uses lunfardo (street slang of Buenos Aires), but the title was changed along with many other tangos in 1943, because of "le ley seca (the dry law)" a policy by the ruling military and the Catholic church to "purify" the language of Argentina. They also wanted to protect the youth from the corrupting influence of tango.

Other examples of famous tangos with name changes are:

Old Title Revised Title
Muchachos se armó la milonga Muchachos Comienza La Ronda
Shusheta El Aristocrata
Chique El Elegante
La Maleva La Mala
Milonguero Viejo Balarín Antiguo
Concha Sucia Cara Sucia
La concha de la lora La cara de la luna
El Once A Divertirse
Raza Criolla El Taita
Mí Pebeta Mé Nena
Con Los Amigos A Mí Madre
Rique Olvídame
Rosa Morena Abuelita Dominga
Marquita Marcheta
Condena S.O.S.
Metido Enamorado
Comparsa Criolla* Comme il faut
El Morocho y El Oriental**

* This tango was composed by Rafael Iriarte and Eduardo Arolas. They both registered the song separately under different names, Iriarte "Comparsa Criolla" and Arolas "Comme il Faut."

** It is hard to tell if "Gardel-Razzano" is a true second title or just a subtitle or there for clarification. Carlos Gardel’s nickname was “El Morocho del Albasto (The dark haired boy of the Albasto district)” and José Razzano’s nickname was “El Oriental (person from the Eastern bank of the Rio de la Plata or Uruguayan)” The nicknames could have been considered inapproriate slang and so the song could have been renamed in the 1940s.

"Shusheta" which was changed to "El Aristocrata" and "Chique" was changed to "El Elegante." The best translation that I found for chique is that in lunfardo it meant to be fake. Susheta was similar in that it meant to be a backstabber or someone who would rat you out. "La Maleva (The Bad Girl)", meant bad as in evil or criminal, but was simplified to "La Mala", which was just bad. "Milonguero Viejo" was changed to "Balarín Antiguo."

I think most went back to their original names after 1947 or 1948.

Words in the lyrics were also changed, "vieja" meant "old lady" but was often changed to madre or madrecita, which were less disrespectful. Pibeta became muchacha.

I have also read that there was some censorship and name changes after the coup of General Uriburu in 1930.

Some song titles and lyrics were changed because the originals were so vulgar. "Concha Sucia" was a traditional song believed to have been composed by 'El Negro' Casimiro Alcorta, a black violin player from the earliest days of tango. The title literally translates to "Dirty Shell," but concha (shell) was a common, obscene term for vagina. Canaro registered this tango, under his own name, and changed the song title to "Cara Sucia" in 1916.  Canaro is believed to have done this with several of the old tangos. The name change was probably to conform to the changing audience of tango, which was including more women and the middle class.

"La cara de la luna" was originally "La concha de la lora." Lora was lunfardo for parrot, which meant a prostitute from Europe.

Listen to some of the songs mentioned above:



A Brief Definition of a Milonguero by Cacho Dante

Oscar (“Cacho”) Dante
17 September 1996

Chatting the night away in a cafe in Amsterdam with some friends, I was asked to describe what a milonguero is.

As it happens, it is something very difficult for me to explain. It’s one thing to be one — to feel it — and another, very different, is to be able to express its meaning in words that are clear for others, and give a real idea of what I think. But I will attempt to do it, trying not to hurt anybody’s feelings.

A milonguero is a slave of the music, the tempo, and the space. When he dances, music invades his body and is translated into his steps and his movements. He never misses a tempo. Such blending with the music is what produces a sensation that their bodies are actually speaking (chamuyan).

The milonguero dances level with the floor, managing space is essential for him, he follows the “ronda”. His steps, turns, and walks are always aimed forwards, he never overtakes another couple, he takes care not to cross other people’s path. He will do his thing (milonguea) in whatever space is left. He dances for himself and his partner, not for the spectators. He does not exhibit.

A milonguero stands out by the subtle way in which he manages space, his sense of rhythm and the intensity — or lightness — of the feelings he conveys. The pleasure he feels, he transfers with elegance to the woman’s body. She, in turn, follows him, generally with eyes closed. She follows like the perfume he is wearing, she sticks together in this joyful journey. She dances apilada to him — but not like “cannonball necklace.” Apilarse doesn’t mean hang — this is not always visible for others, but he can certainly feel it.

A milonguero is inspired by the orchestra, the piece, or the woman. He also allows his emotional states to influence the dance. Before beginning a dance, he will take the woman in his arms, listen to the music, feel their respiration, their heartbeats, and only then will he take the first step.

Fortunately, each milonguero dances distinctively. Their personality, style, and cadence are unique to each one. There is plenty of variety among them, with a rich diversity of steps and dance experience. Although they sometimes give in to admiration, their priority is always the woman and the sentimiento (feelings — the main motivation for the dance). They are anonymous. Sometimes timid, and very concentrated. They do not dance much, they are demanding when choosing the music and the partner. One or two tandas well danced will make the evening.

A milonguero will dress very smart, he will be very careful with the shining of his shoes, the crease of his trousers and [his] perfume. You’ll see them sitting at the table checking out the floor and the minas ; they only ask for a dance with a head movement (“de cabeceo”) or an eye movement (“de ojito”). Meanwhile, there are also the milongueras — many, and very good. They are ageless. Their posture, the charm of their footstep, and the subtleties of their movements make for the man’s inspiration, and it’s them who make the man shine. They are simply chiche bombon!!!

I believe it makes no sense to claim that someone is number one or the best, or that one owns a step, or to say that others have stolen somebody’s step. We’ve all learned from the rest and adapted what we learned to our personality. And we will continue to learn from each other in a never-ending process. That is how we enrich our dance, the tango. The tango, like feelings, doesn’t have and never had an owner.

Dancing (milonguear) as well as learning to dance, should be a joy, not an exigency, competition, or hard work; there is enough of that already in our every day life. Our duty and responsibility as teachers does not consist in overwhelming our students with our skills and knowledge, but to be able to communicate these with sentimiento (feelings) and simplicity. We must therefore avoid mistaking our dancing or performing abilities with our teaching abilities. It’s essential, not only [to] count the number of students we have — which is certainly important financially speaking — but also to make an honest balance and observe how many of our students are milongueando in the salons. We must be sincere with ourselves if we wish to see the tango grow.

I wish to express my humble gratitude for entrusting me, for all the students in all the places I have visited as a teacher. Also to their teachers (including all styles and nationalities), for their passion in promoting Tango, and who have not permitted that I feel alone anywhere I go, even if I do not speak their language or ignore their customs. The Tango in all the tango corners of the world I have visited makes me feel at home wherever I go. Bailando tangos uno nunca esta sólo.

This article was originally published in “La Cadena”, a tango magazine in Holland; “El Once” in London and “Tandoneon” in Madrid.

Clint's Notes:

"She dances apilada to him — but not like “cannonball necklace.” Apilarse doesn’t mean hang — this is not always visible for others, but he can certainly feel it." I would love to ask him more about this in person, because I think it is one of the biggest misunderstandings in Tango, especially in close embrace.

I have asked many top teachers including Osvaldo and Coca about this and without fail the answer is always this. The man and woman are leaning in towards one another (not down), sharing contact in their torsos. BUT they are both responsible for their own balance, you should not lean so far forward that you compromise your balance. It is just a matter of moving your weight off of your heel to the forward part of your foot (metatarsal), don't keep going until you loose balance.

One more comment on this article, "Fortunately, each milonguero dances distinctively. Their personality, style, and cadence are unique to each one. There is plenty of variety among them, with a rich diversity of steps and dance experience."

Ah... interesting. I thought in the other article that milongueros only danced 5 steps. A "rich diversity of steps" sounds like more than 5 to me. This is another major misunderstanding. This is my opinion of what I think he is saying: Learn the basics first and learn to do the primary steps of tango (such as ochos, ocho cortado, cruzada, molinete, arrepentida) very very well and with musicality and on crowded dance floors. Be able to do those steps with any woman, even beginners. Then you can branch out, but always be able to simplify your dance down to those few steps as the need or want arises.

The Tango and Trapeze Acts by Cacho Dante

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 with.

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 instrument.

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 its codes.


Guys, to dance tango, you must listen to the heart of the woman.

written in November 1998 by Cacho Dante, milonguero de Buenos Aires


Clint's Notes:

I often say that I dislike the word "follower" it is not an accurate description of the woman's role in tango. Women have just as many responsibilities in the dance as men.

I also like his comment about the 17 year old milonguero. The true definition of milonguero/a is not based on age. It is an accomplished dancer who lives their lives mostly around the tango and the milongas. It is not based on style or age. It is based on quality.

And of course I love that the first two orchestras he mentioned were Pugliese and Troilo, two of my favorites.

Favorite Pugliese Tanda

Most of the best dances of my life have been to Pugliese.

To dance to Pugliese, you need exceptional balance, patience and discipline (by both partners). It takes the ability to respect the silence and the moments between the steps. To dance Pugliese is to dance tango.. not to execute steps. Pugliese takes time to master. Don't be afraid of him though.. find freedom in those pauses. The big problem I think for most with Pugliese is that it requires a perfect mixture of exceptional technique and heart. One without the other will not suffice...

Pugliese is considered, by most accomplished dancers, to be a wonderful orchestra for dancing. You will hear plenty of Pugliese at the Milongas in Buenos Aires and you will see the best dancers head to the floor when they hear the first notes. That is when they find their favorite partners.