Photography by Weidong Wang

Jonathan y Olivia performing at The Garage in S.F. CA in the tango apilado embrace Jonathan y Olivia at The Garage S.F. CA Photograph by Raymond Von Tassel

Is Tango Apilado Equivalent to Tango Milonguero?




The term ‘milonguero style tango’ (‘tango estilo milonguero’) was coined by Susana Miller in the early 1990s to describe the style of dancing tango that was prevalent in the milongas of downtown Buenos Aires in the 1950s. This stylistic variant of tango is commonly called simply ‘tango milonguero’ in Buneos Aires today, although the term ‘milonguero style tango’ still appears to predominate in English-speaking countries.

Tango Milonguero is characterized by a maintained close embrace, a forward lean in the posture, smaller steps, and improvisation on the rhythmic variation of tango music (Tango Milonguero: Improvised Expression of Music through Movement in a Shared Embrace). The forward lean typically has been interpreted as an identifying characteristic of Tango Milonguero (or ‘milonguero style tango’). For example, Stephen Brown begins his description of ‘milonguero-style tango’ with:

Milonguero-style tango is typically danced with a slightly leaning posture that typically joins the torsos of the two dancers from the tummy through the solar plexus (in an embrace that Argentines call apilado) to create a merged axis while allowing a little bit of distance between the couple’s feet.  The embrace is also typically closed with the woman’s right shoulder as close to her partner’s left shoulder as her left shoulder is to his right, and the woman’s left arm is often draped behind the man’s neck.  Some practitioners of this style suggest that each dancer lean against their partner.  Others say that the lean is more of an illusion in which each partner maintains their own balance, but leans forward just enough to complete the embrace.

Emphasizing the postural lean characteristic of Tango Milonguero, the term tango apilado’ has often been used as a synonym for Tango (Estilo) Milonguero. [See also Braverman.] ‘Apilado’ is the past participle of the verb ‘apilar’ which is translated as meaning ‘to pile up; … to put into a pile’. The application in tango is that one person’s body is ‘piled up’ on another person’s body.