The Milonguero Way


I am a “professional” dancer because I teach tango and get paid for exhibitions. But I wouldn’t be a pro here in Buenos Aires if it weren’t for my partner. He is the draw. He is the Argentine who spent most of his life in the milongas, who lives and breathes and sings the tango. We work very well together, but if it weren’t for me, he could also work well with someone else who has the same tango point of view. Foreign dancers especially love getting to know a milonguero and hearing his stories and dance secrets that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to do, particularly if they don’t speak Castellano.

Ruben wasn’t always a professional dancer; he used to work in television until the crisis of 2001. He was passionate about his job, traveled all over Argentina working, and danced tango every night for the love of it. Now tango is his job. He earns his livelihood from tango. It’s now more than pleasure; it’s work–which he enjoys. He teaches, does taxi dancing, and gives historical Tango Tours of Buenos Aires. Sometimes this puts him in a difficult situation with friends at the milongas we go to for enjoyment and socializing. (We also go to milongas for work when we do milonga accompaniment.)
Foreign women friends expect that Ruben will dance with them. Sometimes he does. But if not, sometimes they outright ask him to dance, which puts him in a bad place as it does with all milongueros. For one thing, milongueros don’t like to be invited, nor do they want to refuse a lady, and for another, if he danced with all the women who wanted him to, what about me? What about our social evening together? We are at Los Consagrados or Chiqué to enjoy ourselves.

He will always dance one tanda with current students. It’s part of their education and he likes to check their progress. And he will bend over backward to make sure our friends get their drink orders, are comfortable, and help them have a great time at the milonga. But there are friends who expect dances with Ruben at the same time they are telling me they are taking classes at DNI, or El Beso, or expensive privates with Maximiliano Superstar. They ask me to “tell” Ruben to dance with them! Ruben owns his own dance. (I do not give him orders.) Read more here. They expect him to give it away for free. They forget that the tango is what he has to sell.

Do these same people ask for free consultations from doctors and lawyers at social gatherings back home? Ruben is a low-profile real milonguero, not a stage dancer who tours the world giving classes and making a big name for himself. He’s in Buenos Aires every week of the year dancing in the milongas, as he’s done for the past 30 years. All the women want to dance with him and all of the men want to dance like him. But he is a professional. Friendly, affable, funny, and fun as well. And available for classes and milonga accompaniment. I wish the women would remember that at the milongas.