2020 brought about forced and rapid change, disruptions in personal time and social space, work related challenges, limitations galore but also new perspectives, lessons and blessings. Tango, and its makers, adapted, reinvented itself, sustained itself, developed new formats and is still alive and well – there is no Covid that fits it.
As poet Manuel Romero wrote in La canción de Buenos Aires (1933):
“Canción maleva, canción de Buenos Aires,
hay algo en tus entrañas que vive y que
canción maleva, lamento de amargura,
sonrisa de esperanza, sollozo de pasión.
Este es el tango, canción de Buenos Aires,
nacido en el suburbio, que hoy reina en
todo el mundo;
este es el tango que llevo muy profundo,
clavado en lo más hondo del criollo
From Milonga we celebrate the National Day of Tango in times of pandemic, sharing the reflections of diverse members of the milonga community about their experiences and the desires that drove them throughout the year and the new context. We hope to return to the gatherings, to the dance and to the milonga space with renewed energy, when the conditions are safe for us all to participate. Happy National Tango Day!
Belén: During this unique year, what did you miss about the milongas or your contact with the universe of pre-Covid tango?
Liliana: I missed everything ! The strongest thing was, without a doubt, the social. The meeting with the tango community in general and, in particular, with the people with whom I maintain close emotional ties.
The hugs and the dancing itself were and are missing. It was a strong and pleasant change of habits without notice.
Daniel: I missed the meeting with my friends, the hugs and the fellowship that reigns in the milongas.
Sandra: This year was so difficult and atypical, especially for tango. COVID-19 came to modify our life and customs and the tango wasn’t left out. We miss the milonguero hug, the talks with friends, the sharing of the same passion.
Hernán: What I missed in particular was being present and having the presence of others. Milongas are very small communities and in the dance, a space of intimacy is created with the partner.
Alejandra and Sergio: We miss the social gatherings, the talks we had with seeing the people from the milonga we love a lot, people who come from different ages and places. We also missed dressing up, putting on makeup (in my case), choosing the shoes we’re going to wear. That’s part of the magic we miss about preparing to go to the milonga. Of course, we missed dancing with others and listening to the music. For us, the couple’s outings were to go to a milonga, we did it 4 or 5 times a week.
Without a doubt, we missed the social gathering and the talks with tango people. Remember the anecdotes that the old milongueros used to tell us like «you remember that Pugliese played in such a club that now he is no longer there? There was an old milonguero who used to go to La Aurora who knew everything about Troilo and told us that he danced him since he was a child.
María Inés: I missed the magic of what it means to go to a milonga from the beginning. When you know you’re going to dance, you think you’re going to wear it. I miss the meeting with the tango people, the complicity with my friends, and the fun. Above all I miss the dance itself and the magic that the embrace creates, the music, the sound of the dance floor and the people. The energy that is generated in that group of people who come together because of their passion for tango. What you see in the milonga when the pitch is generated, enjoying seeing how people are fixed, and the magic or the beautiful anxiety of what we are thinking about what might happen in the next batch, with whom I am going to dance. All that.
Damián: I miss the milonga itself. Going to the milonga, seeing myself with people. I’m not one of those who goes and dances all the time, all night long. Many times I have gone to milongas alone because I like the whole ritual of dressing «well» and sitting down to listen to music. More than once I went back without dancing and because I needed to be there. That’s strange. To feel part of a world that for others can be alien. And that it is mine.
Monica: I miss the hugs and the social gatherings.
Veronica : I miss the tango atmosphere very much. It’s all about… the environment… the music… the company… the preparations. That night becomes magical when everything is combined… and in those four walls we know that we all share the pleasure and privilege that unites us, the tango.
Mariana and Eduardo
Mariana: I missed everything, tango is a way of life, a culture. A way of feeling life. Many times here in Buenos Aires I stopped going to the milonga, because of lack of time sometimes, because the tango here is like a sea in a coastal city, it is always, waiting for you, one believes that it will always be there, but with the pandemic, I felt as if they had taken the sea away from the beach. Beyond the tango, the dance is a need of the human being, one sometimes dances without thinking about it, it’s something of the instinct. It’s as if they had taken away a part of our life, like taking away your oxygen.
Eduardo: What I miss is the milonguero atmosphere.
Belén: As a milonguerx, how did you connect with the universe of tango during the hardest part of the quarantine? Listening to the radio, following Instagram accounts, keeping in touch with tango group chats, taking classes through Zoom?
Liliana: Technique classes by Zoom, Instagram accounts, tango groups by whats app, listening to tangos and also radio programs like «la dos por cuatro». Nothing, in my opinion, replaced or will replace the milonga.
Daniel: During the hardest part of the quarantine I kept connected by classes at Zoom.
Sandra: For me in particular it was very difficult to keep in touch with the world of tango. Even though I connected a few times to a Zoom chat and followed some Instagram accounts and held chats with my tango friends, there was no direct connection to the tango universe.
Hernán: I’ve been in touch through social networks, through some shows on Zoom and by reading. Sometimes I would drive by a milonga like El Parakultural and I would get nostalgic, or as they say «saudade». But I trust he will come back.
Alejandra and Sergio
Alejandra: This year I connected with tango from my role as organizer of the Son y Serán Tango Championship from the call and with the edition of the videos.
Sergio: I teach tango but I was already developing my facet as a musicalizer. With the pandemic, both activities were cut off. In particular, I think that teaching tango in a virtual way is not ethical because you can’t make a real observation of the footprint associated with musicality, nor can you give a clear return to the student through the screen. I dedicated myself to making arrangements at home and taking a course in electricity. As a milonguero I don’t miss milonga. Recently I told an organizer that I see this pandemic as the curtain for the batch of tangos that we are going to dance. It is an impasse.
María Inés: I’m giving tango classes and I took the opportunity to dance while giving classes. I sell videos that, although they sound contradictory, gave me more nostalgia. I’m lucky enough to be in a couple with someone who dances so this reduced a little the pain of distance.
Damián: In the beginning of all this, we were taking classes in person and we tried to keep them as long as we could. It wasn’t easy and finally, we had to stop. I always listen to music. Tango, as much as I can. A trip in bondi, at home to do things and so on. I didn’t disconnect my most curious part and that made me start reading and looking for information about orchestras.
Monica: I maintained my connection to tango by taking classes through Zoom and watching many videos.
Veronica: During the quarantine I tried to stay connected through the tango groups on social networks by sharing tango videos, taking some virtual classes, and with the Naranjo FM digital tango radio project of which I am a part. The radio was the way to not disconnect from the milonguero world. We also took the opportunity to dance some tanguitos in the kitchen when we cooked on Sundays with my partner.
Mariana and Eduardo
Mariana: I’m always connected to tango; it’s a way of life for me. Tango is not just dancing, it’s poetry, music, coffee, a way of thinking, of feeling. It’s the city of Buenos Aires, the streets of San Telmo where I walk every day. As far as our professional and work activity during the quarantine is concerned, we were able to develop more our teaching and coaching side as advisors in the field of dramatic art to help in the composition of paintings or videos of other professionals. With respect to our creative work, we were fortunate to be able to hold our rehearsals and focus more on our improvisation than on our choreography.
Eduardo: The media cited are not references for my connection with tango.
Belén: From your point of view, can we think exclusively of open-air milongas from 2021 in Buenos Aires?
Liliana: I can’t say. I suppose the first part of 2021 will be organized in this way. And then it will depend mainly on the «control» of the pandemic . Let’s hope that it will return as soon as possible to our pre-pandemic milonga routine.
Sandra: We know that this virus is here to stay, so in my opinion, we have to start to return to a «modified normality».
Hernán: The open-air milonga is a good proposal. At CABA we have a privileged climate and we know that this format can work from mid-November to March. We have to find a way to get back into that dance of close contact. It would be strange to have to dance with a mask and so much protection.
Alejandra and Sergio Alejandra: Perhaps they are thought for an older public, we love to go to milongas of big people but it is not the same as going to a milonga in a closed environment and with air conditioning. The bathroom is another important comfort that makes for a good milonga, especially for women who are going to touch up their makeup, gossip between sets or change their shoes. These milongas do not include all the milonguero public, so perhaps a good idea is to wait for the protocols for closed salons with fewer people, to go dancing with a fixed partner. This will reduce the profit for the salon owners, of course.
Sergio: I don’t fully agree with open-air milongas until there is an effective vaccine against Covid-19; these spaces represent a risk for older adults, who are the most exposed.
María Inés: I believe that milongas can be held in wide spaces following certain protocols, not only in the open air. If the place has good ventilation, one can think about the mandatory use of chinstraps, repeated use of alcohol on tables and hands, face wipes and having more distance between partners. Perhaps the milongas will be less crowded and you will work with half the flow of people that was done before. This at least for the beginning. By the end of 2021, who knows, perhaps, in the best case scenario, we will be dancing the way we used to.
Damián: No! And, honestly, I hope not. I love outdoor milongas, but that gives it a more relaxed look. I like the structure that the more formal tango has. I enjoy it. The night and the sparkles. The ties, the dresses. If we think about it from a more liberal place, it’s fine. But the tango is not liberal. Don’t get me wrong. Society, the times became more liberal and I celebrate that. But in the tango everything is written.
Monica: I think so.
Veronica: I wish that some milongas could be opened in the open air with all the care of the case surely. I think that recreation allows us to keep our minds healthy which is also an important part of our health in general.
Mariana and Eduardo
Mariana: I can speak from my desire, I would like that we return to have a life with all our senses. I also think a lot about children and adolescents and the importance of what is present in the schools, the development of bonds in this moment of their lives that is being abandoned. It makes me infinitely sad. We can still look on the positive side of this period of confinement and learn, as the prisoner learns from his cell. Many speak of reinvention or introspection. It is true, many things will be revalued, and perhaps the selfishness of the human condition will give way to a higher form of love. For the moment I am grateful to life, the existence of the open-air milongas, it is a bit of sun, moon and heart to so much darkness.
Eduardo: From my point of view yes: open-air milongas and also in the salon.
Belén: In what way can each of us contribute (from our place and our work) something to the milonga community?
Liliana: I believe that continuing to support, as each one can, spaces and people who live from teaching and organizing milongas collaborates in some way. Taking classes by zoom, now there is the modality with distance. If you have a partner attending milongas in open spaces, respecting protocols .
And so, using different strategies, try to get through, as best we can, this uncomfortable and difficult reality for everyone. The pandemic will pass and the places will re-emerge to the delight of all.
Daniel: Taking care of us and always respecting the protocols to return to dance safely.
Sandra: I believe that the way to support the milonguero world is to demonstrate how important meetings are for us, and to spread the good and healthy that tango is.
Hernán: Everyone can contribute proposals from their creativity, make whirlwinds of ideas. To propose ideas that can be carried out for the tango community.
María Inés: Keeping up the publicity and spreading the word about the classes of those who give classes through Zoom or who are encouraged to give classes in public places with few people. Supporting the festivals that have been held to support people who live exclusively from tango, giving attention to the radio stations so that their audience doesn’t decline, writing to keep publications about tango up to date. Sharing the anxieties or concerns that the tango collective may have, as is the case with this reflection.
Damián: From the place where we are. I believe that each one of us did and is doing what we can. With the respect they deserve. And from the social point of view, there were people who hit him on the side of solidarity. We were collaborating with food bags, which is something we did frequently, but this time knowing where it was going. This too will pass. Tango has survived several of these crises.
Monica: Taking care of us, having patience and collaborating (if possible economically) with those who work on this.
Veronica: I think that is why we are doing it… participating in all the tango activities available online so as not to forget tango.
Mariana and Eduardo
Mariana: From my place, to continue carrying out our rehearsals, classes, interviews or any other tango activity and fundamentally to support our colleagues and all those who develop tango activity. I always thought so, before and now during the pandemic. But now more than ever.
Eduardo: At this moment, tango is playing in the plazas, so from my point of view, I’m going to dance with the others, taking the necessary precautions.
Belén: What is being a milonguero/a in 2020?
Liliana: Today it is sheer nostalgia and yearning!
Daniel: A passion, a feeling, to be a milonguero is like being a worker in a factory of friends.
Sandra: To be a milonguero in 2020 is to remember steps, hugs, eights and hooks until the day we can dance.
Hernán: The passion remains intact, in my case since I started dancing in 1997. This dance, its music, the poetry of the lyrics make the tango allow a sensitive and pleasant contact. Milongas are magical places where there is a sense of belonging and where a universal language is spoken.
Alejandra and Sergio
Alejandra: This year has been a challenge and a learning experience not only as actors in the world of tango but as human beings. It has forced us to look for other things and other forms. Now it’s time to see how we return, perhaps we have to do a little ironing and let more time pass so that we can return to the tango and milonga as they were. This year allowed me to develop other projects related to tango.
Sergio: To be a milonguero in 2020 is to be a partisan of the resistance, a Bella Ciao.
María Inés: It means keeping the desire to dance, or better said, to go to the milonga. One can dance but the environment and the magic of the milonga are irreplaceable. We can only miss it, miss it, desire it, value it and keep it in our hearts while we endure the desire to return, seeing what is the best way to channel that emotion that every milonguero has.
Damián: A big problem! For all that it implies. You have to differentiate the milonguero from the dancer. The dancer runs the furniture and dances. If he doesn’t have someone to dance with, he dances alone. He puts on music and that’s it. The milonguero needs the milonga. Of the place. Of the ritual. Because it is a ritual to go to milongas. Then again, this is my opinion.
Monica: To meet and reconnect with oneself, to perfect oneself in the tango in order to be able to transmit it at the moment of the embrace with the other.
Verónica: It’s making tango resurface with everything,today more than ever. Supporting milonga related events.To support others and be present.
Mariana and Eduardo: It’s to continue dreaming, as always. The milonguero dances and dreams, like children. Because one dies when one renounces one’s dreams…»What is life? A frenzy. What is life? A fiction, a shadow, an illusion, and the greatest good is small; that all life is a dream, and dreams, dreams are» of «Life is a dream» by Calderón de La Barca.