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Tango Argentino Blog What makes a successful milonga by Chiche Nunez CEO of Urquiza Berlin

What makes a successful milonga?

From my point of view, there are several aspects that are important for a pleasant milonga. Here is how I imagine it…

 

The dance floor always offers enough space for a movement forward. The dancers are considerate and do not enter the dance floor when it starts to get crowded. There is a continuous movement of the dance couples.

 

Dancing is characterized by the attention to the dance direction, the “ronda” and “flow” of the dance floor. The assumed dance level of each dancer is secondary on a milonga. How many steps are mastered in the dance class is not as important as the ability to navigate and self-control, for both roles.

 

Friendliness and openness of the service are very important. The host is there for all visitors, welcomes friendly and greets everyone, experienced milongueros and beginners alike. A successful milonga is characterized by the personal character of the organizers, which is reflected, for example, in the choice of music, location, lighting, etc.

 

Refreshments and especially water, and maybe typical drinks such as a whiskey and a Baileys are not missing. Something more than just the “minimum” should already be there to get through the tandas cheerfully.

 

The music is varied and atmospherically different. There are at least two highlights during the evening. Personally, I find milongas that are characterized by pieces from the 40s and 50s the most beautiful. Later and contemporary interpretations of traditional themes, such as by the orchestras Colortango or Misteriosa, can also contribute greatly to the listening pleasure.

 

And last but not least: in a good milonga there is not only enough space to dance but also to socialize, to have conversations, to meet new people. This is also favored by the room itself. A bar, an adjacent room and/or sufficient seating promote the conversation, so that the evening is not only dance-focused. The dancers can relax and refresh themselves in peace and always show themselves well-groomed.

 

When I think about it, I do not see a universal recipe for a successful milonga. A strong soul, the love of dance and the personal hospitality of the organizers can conjure up a unique experience from the different venues, sizes, times, audiences, etc.

 

That is why we dancers go out again and again – in search of that special something.

Tango Argentino Blog What does it mean to be a good dancer by Chiche Nunez CEO of Urquiza Berlin

What does it mean to be a good dancer?

A good dancer makes the best possible out of every situation.

 

There are many aspects that play a role in this. Firstly, it is the ability to adapt to different partners, secondly, the mastery of one’s own dancing desires. Finally, the ability to differentiate oneself from others. In the sense of authenticity, musicality, the diversity in the repertoire, charisma and transmission of security. All these factors are rarely present in the same intensity in a single person. That’s what makes the differences between the dancers. Being a good dancer means using your own possibilities in honesty and thereby creating the best possible version of yourself.

 

There are hardly any differences between the desirable qualities of a good leader and those of a good follower. Therefore, this conversation applies to both roles and genders. It is more about how the qualities come in the game. Both roles must seek the encounter, an honest search for the partner, without claiming to “find” someone. The process of searching is what makes the beauty of dance. After the music, the partner and yourself.
A good dancer no longer compares himself to the outside world, he is not in competition. When you have found your way of dancing, you are able to recognize the search and development of others.

 

Good dancers manage to develop over the years and remain consistent through the personality they find. Quality is more likely to be found in endurance than in sometimes short-lived fads.

 

A good dancer must have self-confidence, love him- oder herself, at the same time perceive the other people and still be emotionally touched while dancing. A good dancer is someone who gets along well on his or her own. He or she has no right to be “liked” by as many as possible or to have his or her taste shared by the general public. The goal is to find our own best possible dance. We prepare for it continuously, throughout our life. We invests in body, soul and spirit.

Tango Argentino Blog What is Tango for you? by Chiche Nunez CEO of Urquiza Berlin

What is tango for you?

For me, tango is a way of life. Dance expresses the inner life of a person, at least that is what I learned from José “El Turco” Brahemcha. He once told me, “The dancer dances what he is.”

 

The authenticity in dance has to do with the everyday life. Everyone has routines and the best comes from the will to give continuity to a process. Tango is a craft, a product of repetition. It always remains rooted, but it is constantly evolving. The more genuine the feelings, the more genuine the search. Certain aspects touch you more or less. Elegance, explosiveness or passion can move a dancer, musician or artist more or less.

 

For me, tango is a modern dance. There is an order and a distribution of roles, according to tradition, but not in a reactionary manner. There are reasons why you do or do not do certain things, movements. The basic qualities of these are also considered in new steps. The character remains and is not diluted by a complete abandonment of the rules. I see this especially in the Urquiza style (*smiles)… When “everything goes”, the expressions and conflicts are avoided. Everything seems nice but intensity and character are lost.

 

Tango is my home, a place where I feel safe. I can express myself through it. As a student, teacher, artist or director. In this work I see things that always accompany me. For example, they are memories from my childhood and youth. The first visit to Sunderland where they did not want to let me in because I was inappropriately dressed. However, a club member recognized my desire to get closer to tango and let me come in from behind through the bar, just to watch. There I encountered structure and cordiality at the same time. Or in the kitchen with José, after cooking: “Chiche, this food is tastier than the tango!”. Sometimes I realize that I have to give more space to other aspects in order to feed the tango.

 

Tango is for me to be able to enjoy. And that I can improve. Maybe not be “the best”, but I can always strive little further for happiness. It does not let me hide in the idea of “looseness” in order not to develop further. In tango you can always learn, just like in life. There is no excuse, just like in life. You get better, also through sadness. The personality refines itself and so does the dance. Melancholy is a very powerful force for further development, as well as the ability to find happiness in misfortune.

 

In the beginning I never thought I would become a dancer. I would never have allowed myself this thought. And that is why I worked very hard. Over the years, life has given me this. From persistence. My first personal contact came through the family, later through the literature of tango, then through music and finally through dance.

 

Interpersonal relationships have always been a big component for me. Here I found respect and closeness, both between teacher and student, as well as between husband and wife, parents and children, between friends and my life with the tango.

Tango Argentino Blog What does Urquiza mean? by Chiche Nunez CEO of Urquiza Berlin

What does Urquiza mean?

Where does the name Urquiza come from?
The name “Urquiza” style is derived from the name of the Villa Urquiza district in the north of Buenos Aires. This district is named after the third Argentine President Justo José de Urquiza (1801 – 1870).
The name of the style was not an independent decision of the group that created, danced and developed this style. Dancers from other groups gave it the name “Urquiza” because its founders / representatives came from the Villa Urquiza district, lived there or met with the group (the “Barra”) there.


Who developed the style?
Urquiza as a modern tango dance style emerged in the mid-forties of the 20th century. Luis “Milonguita” Lemos, also called the “secret – el Misterio de Urquiza” is considered to be its founder. He came from “La Siberia”, an area in the Villa Urquiza district, which is where the “Club Sin Rumbo” is today, between Avenida Crisologo Larralde and Avenida Congreso, as well as Avenida De Los Constituyentes and Calle Diaz Colodrero. That was the poorest area in Villa Urquiza at the time, sparsely populated, but with people who wanted a home of their own and strived to achieve a better life.
Ricardo “Chino Períco” Ponce, also an important representative of the Urquiza style, says about Milonguita: his clothes and shoes were made to measure, he looked uniquely elegant and as a dancer he was like an angel.
Milonguita had the means to move around the different districts of Buenos Aires as they wished. He was able to attend various milongas and kept coming across new things in a tango scene that was currently experiencing a strong development in the choreographic repertoire with the impulses of “Petroleo” and “Lavandina”. Everything he saw he did differently. And that’s how he was perceived: differently. With this otherness of his dance, the Urquiza style was born.
The lively, powerful and sleek elegance of Milonguita renewed existing figures and reinvented others. In doing so, he immediately awakened the desire in some other tango enthusiasts to be able to dance a bit like him, maybe even to become better than him.


These included José “El Turco” Brahemcha, Eduardo Clemente “Perita”, Miguel Mancini “Caga …”, Reinaldo “El Negrito” Davila and Juan Luna. They were the members of the first generation who shaped and supplemented the Urquiza style around Milonguita. With milonguita, the ideas that came from this group came true.
For example, Jose “El Turco” was a strong intellectual of dancing and movement in space. He was known as someone who “opened the dance”. He used the existing rotating structures to move the rotations in space and create figures with enormous dynamics. At the same time he had an amazing ability to synthesize and gave the style a very polished and simple functional elegance, in line with modernity. José accepted me as his apprentice in 1997 and said goodbye to me as his student in 2006.
Like him, everyone in the Barra had a distinct personality and particular strengths and preferences. A lot can be said about all of these pioneers, but that would go beyond the scope of this study.


What are the basic characteristics of the Urquiza style?
Urquiza as a dance style developed out of the search for modernity in tango. The principle is that functionality is the creator of aesthetics. This creates a distinction from other tango styles, both in “what” you dance (or not dance) and in “how” you dance it.
The fundamental characteristics of the Urquiza style are the search for symmetry and contrast and the pursuit of elegance, moving from the original stability and strength towards ductility and elasticity.
These basic ideas shape all aspects of dance. This can be seen at first glance in the “how” you dance as an Urquiza dancer in contrast to other styles:
The posture is upright but not stiff and always remains changeable, for both men and women, in accordance with the desired expression or movement.
The dancers stand parallel to each other. A close hug is sought without “sticking” together with the couple. The closeness is preserved through displacement and is always found anew, the bodies slide in motion without being fixed on a point. Dancers stand by themselves and stay on their own axis.
In the Urquiza style, one is always looking for contrast and surprises, not just in and through figures, but already while walking. By means of changes in foot technique, variations in step size, changes in height (within several steps) and changes in tempo, you can avoid “marching”. This is how you dance lively, without predictable sequences and with an explosiveness aimed at intensifying expression.
The dance partners will take into account the differences in physique, size, disposition, taste and abilities. You choose elements that suit you best and you are not afraid to leave out a lot.


On closer inspection, choreographic peculiarities become clear that distinguish Urquiza from other tango styles. This is about “what” is being danced:
Urquiza dancers treat the right and left side of the embrace equally, i.e., in contrast to other styles, they also dance figures on the left (“closed” by the dance posture) side of the women.
From the idea of ​​always dancing in a contrasting way, it follows not to repeat figures. Structures based on repetition, such as the “chain”, are therefore rejected and not used.
In the Urquiza style, the dance is given a very clear and decisive direction forwards. The dancers will perform all of the figures in motion. This also applies, for example, to ganchos that are only danced within an uninterrupted river (and not “while standing”).
For this reason, rocking steps and all “pendulum movements” in the Urquiza are not part of the dance repertoire.
Figures that show women and men in unfavorable poses, such as volcadas with open legs or sandwiches, are considered to be gross. They contradict the pursuit of elegance and are therefore not danced in the Urquiza style.


There are also other subtleties that have to do with “when” you dance. Urquiza dancers will greatly prefer music that corresponds to their style. This includes tango pieces from the 1940s and 1950s, especially by melodic orchestras. They opt for tangos that best enable them to combine symmetry, contrast and elegance without tying them too tightly to the rhythm. On the other hand, Milonga and Vals are of course danced rhythmically and are often enriched with quotes from older styles.
The question of whether you dance at all is very important for Urquiza dancers. El Chino Períco sagte zum Bespiel über José El Turco, dass dieser stets den richtigen Moment suchte, um auf die Tanzfläche zu gehen. It was important to him to be able to dance comfortably. In this sense, the Urquiza style avoids stepping onto a too full dance floor. Likewise, an unkempt Ronda, in which the dance direction and lines are disregarded, can be a reason not to dance, also out of respect for the lady.


Where is the Tango danced today in the Urquiza style?
The Urquiza style can still be encountered today, especially at the place of its origin, in the milongas in Villa Urquiza, Buenos Aires. There the tango is often danced with similarities to the original style. Important tango salon elements and certain peculiarities such as posture and hugging will continue to be cultivated there. The more demanding figures are not often found in the dance repertoire of the milonga participants.
In Europe, the style has established itself through the effect of individual representatives in Berlin, but also in other cities such as Milan and Nantes.


Lots of people dance Argentine Tango these days. And many dancers, especially from the younger generation of tango, not only want to get to know steps and music, but also want to know more about the roots of dance and tango culture. This certainly explains the growing interest in the Urquiza style, which, as a modern tango style, embodies tradition in a special way. I am sure that the new generation will play a major role in the further development of the style. And I’m really looking forward to the new impetus Urquiza will receive from her.

Tango Argentino Blog Which tango shoes? by Chiche Nunez CEO of Urquiza Berlin

Which tango shoes would you recommend?

The question of the right shoes for dancing tango is and remains very topical.

There is an immense range of different manufacturers of shoes, all of which present themselves as specialists in tango shoes; Nevertheless, it is worth asking which basic properties you should consider for a suitable tango shoe.
I will take a detour and use the results of my personal experience to name the properties that make a tango shoe more suitable.

 

My first recommendation

At first I didn’t have any usable shoes to dance to. I used either sneakers or regular rubber-soled street shoes. At some point I noticed that many had “dance shoes”. At that time, the concept of dance shoe was not clear to me.
I started asking where I could get a pair of tango shoes. Back then there was only a small selection of such specialized manufacturers in Buenos Aires. I got a recommendation that has stayed with me all my life.
I had made the acquaintance of a gentleman who was a milonguero. He went to a lot of milongas, danced a lot and did a normal job. So he wasn’t a professional dancer and didn’t want to become one. Nevertheless, he had high demands on his dance, his demeanor and appearance.
When he heard that I was looking for shoes for the tango, he gave me a recommendation. He recommended that I buy a pair of leather street shoes with little frames along the soles of my feet. He gave three reasons for this:
First, you can walk on the street with it. Shoes were made for it. I come to the milonga, don’t have to change my shoes and don’t have to touch my feet. Second, you can dance comfortably with it for a long time. Because the purpose of good street shoes should be that you can cover long distances with them. And thirdly, your shoe should have little edge in order to be able to dance as precisely and sensitively as possible close to the lady’s foot. That’s how I bought my first oxford shoes. I wore these shoes for years.

 

Omar Vega

I remember a great role model who later became a good friend of mine. It must have been in 1997 when Omar Vega invited me to his table in the “Regin” milonga. I received a lot of good advice from him, but once he suddenly said to me: “A shoe has to fit the foot like a glove”. It was one of those sentences that can mean anything, but in the end are meant very precisely and literally.
The explanation of the sentence is almost more important than the sentence itself. It took me a good ten years to understand this sentence in its full meaning. I was helped by the countless side conversations about shoes with experienced tango dancers such as “El Chino Perico”, “El Nene Fo”, “El Turco José”, just to name my most important role models.
What the sentence means is that the shoe has to fit snugly around the metatarsal joint so that the foot doesn’t slide forward and put pressure on the toes. You always need air at the tip of your foot. Lace-up shoes are a very practicable variant, but definitely do not exclude slippers or boots for tango dancing. The shape of the shoe should only be more precisely adapted to the foot than with the lace-up shoe.

 

Roberto and the technology

At the beginning of my tango lessons I was once in the studio “La Esquina” of Vanina Bilous and Roberto Herrera for a group lesson. I was offered a look at a pair of shoes designed as tango shoes. They had a chrome leather sole. I was told the fantastic properties of this shoe in comparison to ordinary leather shoes. In particular, there was talk about the slip resistance of chrome leather and how much these shoes can adapt to the foot. You have to brush them regularly so that they don’t lose these properties. I listened to that with a lot of enthusiasm, of course, and I still remember my first chrome leather shoes. They were just beautiful and very comfortable from the start.
Today I think that the choice of a chrome leather sole remains a very personal decision for every social dancer. You can’t walk on the street in such shoes, they lose shape much faster than a leather sole shoe, they offer much less support, and are more suitable for certain dancers who don’t need a shoe with a long lifespan. E.g. professional tango dancers.

 

Again I thought of the sentence:

“A shoe sits like a glove on the foot …”
At first glance you can see: in a soft shoe you immediately feel comfortable. This is the case with many tango shoes. But soon the disadvantage becomes clear: The initially comfortable material continues to work and becomes so soft that the shoe will soon no longer be able to hold the foot as it should.
The other option is shoes with a firmer material; a leather sole as a base and more inding upper to create a slightly firmer feeling. These shoes adapt more slowly to the foot, but in return they stabilize when the shape of the foot is found. Leather shoes usually expand well laterally. However, it is important that the tip of the foot always has some air, because the shoes hardly or not stretch in length. Newly purchased shoes are best wearned several times a day for short moments until they give way in their shape and adapt to the foot. In the meantime, you dance with the old shoes. At some point, the new ones lie comfortably on the foot and will then sit like a glove.

 

El Turco Josè

El Turco José loved brown and cordless shoes… y El Taquito Militar! When I met “El Turco José”, one of the first things that captured my attention, was his shoes. At that time I didn’t know that he should become my role model for everything I wanted to do with tango. He was wearing cordless, light brown street shoes! What was so special about it? Undoubtedly, no shoes with laces. That set him apart from everyone else. Nevertheless, his way of walking was familiar, elegant and of sophistication. After we got closer to each other, he recommended shoes with higher heels. There were “Taco Francés” and “Taco Militar” to choose from, both of which I tried. Personally, however, I feel safer with the latter – i.e. the military sales. It can be up to half a centimeter higher than the “Taco Fracés”, with the base being narrower and lighter. I developed a lightness with the higher heel; although the habituation process took some time, I soon felt very comfortable in such shoes.
An important statement of Josè was also that you have to learn to walk comfortably on the street in the shoes in which you dance, only then can you master your shoes.
Heels are a big topic for the ladies! Especially when the fashion changes! A particular shoe shape is usually designed according to the height of the heel. Unfortunately, at the “Tangomarkt” I always discover women’s shoes with inappropriate heel height, which causes the entire stability of the body and its joints to suffer. It is quite certain that a paragraph must be resilient and stable. But only a few dance shoes that have been developed for other types of dance such as standard / Latin are suitable for tango, because their heels are not sufficiently resilient.
When we talk about heels, I would like to take a quick look at the women’s shoes…

 

Las Milongueras del 40 y 50

Before the founding of the Comme il faut, it was rather unusual for women to wear sandals to dance. One reason was certainly that in the places where tango danced with a claim, the proximity to the feet was sought. It is understandable that despite all the precision, a certain protection for the toes was hit.
“Dance shoes” did not use ladies, but quite normal, strong shoes, which are comfortable, and suitable for tango dancing. Rarely, on a dry day in summer, you could occasionally see sandals. The women’s shoes were closed or perhaps provided with a small opening at the tip, which gave the feet great protection. Of course, every lady wanted to be apart and not wear the model that can be seen on many feet of dancers – possibly on the same evening.
After an intensive exchange with colleagues and dancers, I realized that the basic characteristics for good tango women’s shoes are the same as for men’s shoes: protection and stability, height and adaptation and, of course, timeless beauty!

In my mind, I often see a beautiful couple that is unique and that was indispensable in the milonga scene of Buenos Aires:

 

El Nene Fo

I remember that we were on our way to Club Sin Rumbo with El Nene and his wife Carmen. I did not miss his beautiful shoes, which differed from their production from all other tango shoes on the market. Bourdeaux colours! Beautiful!
Do you like them? He asked me. Yes! I said, but where did you get them from? From the shoemaker of my neighborhood, of course! Said he.
At that moment I realized that both he and Carmen knew nothing about anything like tango shoes.
But both wore very nice and comfortable shoes, with which they danced for a long time, came and went. Undoubtedly, shoes are a decisive thing in tango! We should work with it, not try to escape it. So does a man or woman need official “tango shoes” to dance tango long and comfortably? Definitely, no!! So-called tango shoes, if they are of high quality, certainly offer a number of features that make a shoe usable for tango.

 

I hope to have inspired you through my memories to think about your shoes and the health of your feet. One’s own experiences and feelings cannot be replaced by the blind purchase of expensive models of the currently trendy brands. Stability and protection, paired with taste and individuality, make a pair of shoes a treasure of endurance.