Music and Milongas and DJs and Diversity
I wanted to share a few thoughts.
My name is Michael Flanagan; Argentine Tango reached out and grabbed my hand late in 1999. In return, I focused on building community, exposing more people to Argentine Tango. I want to remind you that this is your community. It can be whatever you wish it to be, but I can tell you this is not easy. I will be sharing additional thought s about tango and community on the Tango St. Louis website.
My first subject will be about music and Milongas and DJs and diversity.
Continuing on the idea that this is your community, everyone should have input in what music they wish to be played at their Milongas. I did not say dictate what music is played, but input. Every DJ I have spoken with about the responsibility of being a DJ has told me that they select music that the dancer like. This makes sense, but in my experience this is not really their practice. I have seen DJs take requests for favorites only to disregard someone’s request explaining that the songs selected would ruin the energy or the flow of the evening. I will also point out that when a DJ reaches out to the community in taking request, the response is very disappointing. Very little response from the community. If one has the opportunity to select music to dance to, why wouldn’t one? And should one decides not to provide musical input, and then you have no room to express an opinion about the play list, way too little and way too late.
So enough of my ranting, here are my thoughts about Milongas and Music.
The Milonga is a community dance event, a place to put into practice what you have learned and worked. It is a place to socialize, exchange ideas and of utmost importance, the place to have fun. It’s a dance party. Everyone should provide input into what would make it fun. Why not? One does not have to be invited to tell the DJ in which songs one would like to dance. This information is beneficial to the DJ. It becomes very clear what the community would like to hear if we actually tell them! However, if there is no input, the DJ will select what he/she believes is best. Simple, effective but oh yes there is much more to it.
When the community talks about music, there are those who believe the only proper music to be played at a traditional Milonga is the music of the Golden Age of Tango. Please understand that I see the value of drawing music from a core that provides a solid base for dancers to build their tango musicality and understanding. But one does not have to be limited to ONLY the Golden Age music. Argentine Tango began sometime in the late 1800’s and therefore the origins of tango, the creation and evolution of the dance existed for over 5 decades before the Golden Age began. What music did the dancers of Buenos Aries dance to before there was a Golden Age? Just a thought.
OK, let’s look at this from a logical perspective. A three hour Milonga will have approximately five tanda groupings; Tango/Tango /Vals & Tango/Tango/Milonga that would provide (this is only one of the tanda formats DJs use), this will provide approximately 24 individual Tandas in which to dance. If one would be open to the possibility other types of music, Nuevo, Alternative, or non-Golden Age, a DJ could be adding 5 more Tandas or ten, non-Golden Age Tango songs. For those who do not like to dance to this type of music, they do not have to dance to these songs. In a Milonga, very few dancers dance to every tanda. These dancers are not inconvenienced, as a matter of fact, they have more opportunity to talk to someone, get a drink and socialize. 90% of the music is still from the Golden Age of Tango, 90%!.
Let’s look at it from the other perspective. If the all of the music for the Milonga is Golden Age, those dancers who prefer different music, have NO OPPORTUNITIES to dance to the music they prefer. So for me it is very simple, if a DJ is open to including non-Golden Age music, the DJ will still be providing 90% of the music from the Golden Age. The DJ now considers dancers (such as me,) an opportunity to dance to the music they like. However, if there is no alternative music to G.A., then what is the incentive for dancer like me to go to this Milonga. If I have no chance to hear my favorite music, I will find options where I can dance. There is only one DJ who plays a two song alternative in every tanda grouping, I dance when this DJ runs the Milonga. There are several DJs who will play two Tandas in a Milonga, and there are those who will play nothing but Golden Age.
I just want DJs to consider options.
In what world is exclusion a good way to treat others?
I have also been told by DJs that the “Good Dancers” prefer Golden Age music. I’m not sure what that means. Who decides what a good dance is? If the “Good Dancers” like G.A., what are those DJs saying about me? I like different music, it challenges me, it motivated me and allows me to look at the dance differently. Different works for me.
I am really writing this article to get the members of this community to think about what music they like to hear, the music they want to dance to. If you prefer diversity, then be proud of what you like and let DJs know you like diversity. If you are not open to the other styles of music, that’s OK too, but I truly believe that giving up 4% to 10 % of your dance time for other members of your community is not really such an awful way to look at strengthening and broadening the embrace of your tango brothers and sisters,. Its a way to build your community.
I know that am speaking about a dance or hobby, but really if we cannot be truly open to diversity in a simple dance community, what does that say about how we think, how we treat others or what we want our community to be?
St Louis, you can decide to share your thoughts, ideas and preference, but you have to be strong enough to share an idea in which others may not agree. If you believe it, share it. If community is important to you, then be open to other ideas. If we cannot be open to others who share the same passion for tango, then something is really wrong and we are not thinking about the big picture.
I like Argentine Tango, the individuals and the community, but after 16 years I am often left confused and sometimes disappointed.
Thanks for having enough interest to read my thoughts.
Til next Time
Michael J. Flanagan
Tango St Louis
Be a part of the newest Milonga in St Louis to be held at the prestigious Mahler Ballroom on the first Sunday of every month….
Location: Mahler Ballroom 4915 Washington Blvd St Louis, 63108
The Mahler is a truly elegant venue with a storied St Louis History. Marsha Shepley bought a Central West End ballroom and refurbished it for her business, her pleasure and her home.
SUNDAY is our new Tango Day!! The Focal Point
Looking for a place to dance tango on Sunday evenings. Check out the newest Milonga in St Louis, the Milonga del Domingo at the Focal Point in Maplewood. The Focal Point has a beautiful wood floor, and there is ample street parking (but don’t park in the private lot across the street). The adjacent Maya Café is scheduled to be open, serving food from 5 pm until 8 pm, with the bar open until possibly as late as 9 pm if traffic warrants. (The Maya Café is accessible via the hallway to the shared bathrooms, so no need to even go outside.) You may also bring your own food and drinks. Cover for the Milonga: $5
Come join us,
Barb Jones, Russell Blyth, Nabil El Hassan, Deborah Hackett Pogue and Menelaos Karanikolas
Focal Point, 2720 Sutton, Maplewood
Check the TSL Calendar for the Milonga del Domingo’s next event.
Tango St Louis contact: Michael Flanagan 314-303-0484 or Michael@tangostlouis.com