Tandas......TTVTTM ....part of the Magic of the Milonga
There is so much magic about Argentine Tango. There is the dance itself and the orchestra with their leaders, each with a different style. The instruments.....the bandoneons bark, violins weep, the piano melodic, the viola sonorous, and the double bass keeping time, and the cantors singing tales of passion. And there are the beautiful dresses and shoes of the women and well dressed men, using the cabeceo to ask for a dance.
The Tandas are also part of the magic of the Buenos Aires Social Tango. The Tandas keep a sense of time and order through the night as we dance, no need for a clock on the wall. The Tandas keep time all by themselves. The Tanda, a series of three or four like-themed tangos that you dance with the same person, lasting about 12 minutes altogether.
The Tandas are set up in a methodical order known as TTVTTM with curtains between each tanda. This means four songs of Tango, followed by four more songs Tango, followed by three songs of Vals and then four songs of Tango, and again four songs of Tango and finally followed by three songs of Milonga with its habenero beat, each Tanda separated by a short piece of music different from tango, causing a pause or curtain. I consider the Vals and Milongas the candy of the evening, while the Tangos are the meat of the social dance. The TTVTTM is repeated all through the night.
In Buenos Aires and often in the USA, one will usually find Tango Tandas of four songs, however the Milonga tandas will often be composed of three songs because they are fast, energy consuming songs. In the United States and other countries, one may find all the Tandas composed of three songs, increasing the opportunities for the follows to dance, because of the shortage of leaders.
But what makes the evening of a Milonga so special are the 21 major orchestras of the Golden Age of Tango: Firpo, Canaro, Donato, Rodriquez, Laurenz, Fresedo, Tanturi, Di Sarli, D'Arienzo, D'Agostino, Biagi, Calo, De Angelis, Troilo, Lomuto, Gobbi, Pugliese, Demare, Malerba, De Caro, and Carabelli. Each orchestra leader having their own style and stable of cantors. Each Tanda or set of songs are creatively chosen by the DJ from the same orchestra. The Golden Age, 1920-1955, is a very special time in the history of music, when these gifted composers wrote. Moving from one Tanda to the next Tanda brings an entire change of flavor to the evening's dance floor. And then there are those wonderful Tandas of Vals and Milongas that appear like clockwork throughout the night.
How did this "clock-like", methodical method to dance through the evening come to be ? Well, it begins with "lata" or a small piece of tin. The outskirts of Buenos Aires in the 1880's and 90's is where dance halls were filled with men who wished to dance, but there was a shortage of women with an influx of men from Europe and other places during the immigration to Argentina. Often women were hired to come to the halls to dance. And the men normally needed to purchase a ticket that was made of tin, thus the "lata".
The lata allowed the men to dance a set number of tangos, vals or milongas. Thus they could dance three tangos or three vals or three milongas. The man gave the "ticket" to the woman and began to dance with her. To dance another set of songs or Tanda another ticket had to be purchased and given to the lady.
The Cortina, literally meaning "curtain", a music different from tango, announced the end of the set or of the "Tanda". The couples separated and began a search for a new partner.
However, there were so few women, a man might wait a long time to dance with a woman, holding his ticket for along time. Thus the phrase, "Tener la lata" (to hold the tin), meaning to wait a long time, till a lady became available.
Can you imagine a Milonga without the Tanda format? It would be pretty flat and tedious. The Tandas work because each orchestra brings a fresh, unique style to the dance floor. And for me there is the anticipation for knowing when the Vals and Milonga Tandas will be coming along, like a German/Swiss train coming to the station. And I..... am keeping my eye out for that special someone who loves the Vals or the Milongas, hoping to dance with that person.
Each Tanda compliments the next Tanda and with each Tanda lasting around 12 minutes. And then, there is the magic of spending time with someone, maybe a total stranger in an intimate setting during this time. There is also the magic of finding and dancing with a new partner during the next Tanda and the feelings of the magic of the next orchestra to "take the stage". You could step into a Milonga anywhere in the world, anywhere, and you will find the magical clock of the Tandas pulsing the moments of the afternoon, evening, the night, like a sacred hallowed service, with all of its richness of traditions and floorcraft etiquette.
And admist the Tandas is all the traditional surroundings, the cabeceo i.e. using eye contact or head motion to select a new partner, and the little chit chat between songs, often the only time to have a little private conversation with someone away from the others. And then all at once, everyone begins to dance, the embrace and the entire floor begins to move and we dance to the song, each song a story in itself. And now, a special time with your partner, dancing the songs of the Tanda in a trance, in a world all your own and yet shared with someone close, often the woman with eyes closed in total trust and blissful submission that came with the trust in her lead.
Felipe el Aleman
La vida es corta, baila tango cada noche