Let me guess and say that you are addicted to tango and to milongas, these evenings where everything comes together like magic. However, do you know how a milonga evening is structured?

For example, if nothing gets you going like an upbeat milonga tune (milonga as in the dance, not the tango party), you’d better make sure you’re not out and about when the milonga tanda is up because you might have to wait for an hour before another one comes around. Why is that?

What are “tandas”?

In a tango party, music is organised in “tandas”:
– Tandas as groups of songs that come from the same orchestra and preferably from the same era, so that they have the same style.
– It’s often said that tandas should either be composed of instrumental songs or songs with lyrics, but not a mix.
– Most DJs prefer to group songs with the same beat.

There’s a reason for all these rules: it’s all about letting dancers know what they’re “signing up for”. Let’s say you invite a partner because you love the first song of the tanda that is currently playing; of course, you want to make sure you’ll have a similar style of music until the end of the tanda. You don’t want a random experience, especially if you’ve just invited a new partner.

How are “tandas” composed?

Next thing to know: tandas have different length:

– A tanda of tango music will contain 4 songs
– A tanda of milonga and vals usually are composed of 3 songs.
It’s because vals and milonga are more upbeat, so sometimes, 3 are enough to make us breathless, especially towards early morning!

“Tandas” wouldn’t exist without “cortinas”

Ok, so you might ask “how do you know it’s the beginning or the end of the tanda?”. It’s all thanks to the “cortina”, a short piece of non tango music played between 2 tandas to signify that it is time to scan the room for our next partner.

Together, “Tandas” and “cortinas” create beautiful evenings of dancing

In terms of how the evening is structured, here how it traditionally works (DJs are free to change this order depending on the mood they want to create):

– 2 tandas of tango music
– 1 tanda of vals
– 2 tandas of tango mucis
– 1 tanda of milonga

So, vals and milonga come around only about once an hour. Don’t miss them!

When are they going to play Caló?

In Buenos Aires, DJs tend to start the evening with older tangos from the Guarda Vieja and make their way through to the Golden Age, to end the evening on moody and atmospheric Pugliese. In Europe, this is more flexible and DJs will play different tandas based on the atmosphere of the milonga. If everyone is a little bit sleepy, a D’Arienzo tanda should play the trick and wake everyone up. If people are on the contrary slightly too energetic, nothing better than a Di Sarli to cool everyone down.


Nati & Bruno