Milonga Lisa y Milonga Traspié

tango tango music Aug 31, 2023

by Mariano Diaz Campos

"In milonga you can't lie" is a saying that I often heard from the milongueros. In tango it is possible to 'cheat' a little bit; to solve smalll misunderstandings in the connection within the couple. But in milonga that is not possible, because of the fast pace and the super precise steps. Just a very small difference in foot placement, timing, or turning direction, can cause quite a disconnection within the couple. 

A good milonga dancer is a good tango dancer, but not necessarily vice versa.  

In this blog we will explain more about the dance genre Milonga.


Common dance rhythms

In this image you can see the most commonly used rhythms for dancers.

There are many more possibilities, such as dancing on the sixteens. Usually dancing to the 1- 2 is called A Tiempo (at the beat) and dancing to the 1 - y - 2 - y  is called Contratiempo (double beat).

Of course the syncopation is another wonderful musical play for musicians and dancers. Some dance teachers call the regular double beat a syncopation, but that is incorrect.

Some dance teacher count the milonga bar in four quarter beats, that is also incorrect, but it can be helpful for dancers to make it easier. In the end it, for dancers it comes down to how well we dance to the rhythm, and not how we count!

Important to note is that the first quarter of the first bar is usually a bit stronger than the first quarter of the second bar.

Milonga: both a dance genre and a place to dance tango

The word milonga has two meanings:

1. Milonga: the place where people dance tango, called milonga.

2. Milonga: the music & dance genre, subdivision of tango, called milonga.

Musical structure of Milonga

Milonga is a musical genre in 2 quarter beat. This means each bar has two quarters. The first quarter of the first bar is usually stronger than the first quarter of the second bar. Milonga music contains a lot of syncopations, and these are often interpreted by the dancers by adornos (embellishments) in between the steps, such as taps, piqués, or front cross/back cross adornos.

Phrases in Milonga

Phrases are created in music through an interaction of melody, harmony, and rhythm. A phrase is the smallest musical unit that conveys a more or less complete musical thought. Phrases vary in length and are terminated at a point of full or partial repose, which is called a cadence.

Most common phrase structure in milonga music in phrases in 8 bar or in 6 bars.

Musical phrasing is the way a musician shapes a sequence of notes in a passage of music to allow expression. Within each phrase in milonga we can often recognize the structure of 'question and answer', in which the first four bars are often the question, and the last four bars are the reply or conclusion. 


Milonga Lisa & Milonga Traspié

Milonga Lisa
Style of dancing in which the dancers step on each strong beat (A Tiempo). 
Lisa means smooth. This term is used to differentiate from the Milonga traspié.

Milonga Traspié
Style of dancing in which the dancers often step on the double beat (Contratiempo).
Traspié means miss-step. The term was originally used for only this type of miss-step, but nowadays the term is used to describe the style of milonga dancing that is fast, with tiny, fast steps (including the original traspié).

Unique lead/follow
The lead/follow of the fast & virtuoso milonga traspié is unique. If you know how to lead traspié, you have a whole new asset of leading/following at your disposal, that you usually don't learn in tango or vals classes. But once you learn these milonga techniques, you can apply them also in tango and vals. This makes you a more versatile dancer with a rich repertoire, especially for dancing in small spaces in close embrace.

Pauses in Milonga 

In some milongas the tempo of the music slows down, and obviously if you dance within the music, the dancers will slow down as well. When the music is just the regular tempo, and there are no pauses and the tempo does not slow down, but the dancers slow down anyway, I think it changes the charactor of this unique dance genre, and makes it more 'tanguesque' and less unique for milonga. It can be a camouflage of dancers to 'cheat' a bit in the connection. To become an excellent dancer of the milonga, I would recommend to really train your skills to dance to the flow of the milonga, and not pausing or slowing down, unless the music really does. It will benefit your skills in tango and vals as well, it is worth the effort!


Milonga Campera

 The milonga originated from the milonga campera


© by Mariano Diaz Campos | 31 August 2023