Tango class with Giovanni Montana and Laura Iaru: Milonga
Tango class with Giovanni Montana and Laura Iaru: Milonga

There are three basic rythmic kinds of music that we can dance Tango to:

  • “Tango” which usually mixes beat and melody equally. It usually has a 4/4 beat and a speed between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm).
  • “Vals” which has a 3/4 beat and can have any speed and any mix of beat and melody. There are slow valses, but valses are often more dynamic and can have speeds up to 200 bpm.
  • “Milonga” which puts an emphasis on the beat (the beat dominates the song or most parts of it) and usually has a speed from 100 bpm up (without limit). I usually has a beat of 2/4, but also a fast 4/4 beat song can be a milonga.

Note: The word “Milonga” is what we call a “Teekesselchen” in German – one word that has more then one meaning. In Tango it either means a Tango dance meeting with certain rules or the fast style of Tango music described above. The word “Tango” is also a “Teekesselchen” with at least three meanings: a) the dance b) all Argentine Tango music (including Vals and Milonga) c) the specific style fo Tango music described above.

In traditional Tango milongs (the dance event) Tango, Vals and Milongas are played in a strict order: 2 set of Tangos, one set of valses, 2 sets of Tangos, one set of Milonga, then start over from the beginning (TTVTTM).

How to dance to Milonga-Songs?

This lesson will give you a first introduction and an overview how to apply Tango moves to quick Milonga music. No one will (and should) expect you to dance well to milonga-style music afterwards. Many topics touched today deserve a deeper treatment (which we will offer in the future). If you want to move forward on your on, you will find videos at the end.

In general you may use any Tango dance move or figure you have learned so far or will learn in the future. But because the focus of the music is on the beat, to really enjoy it, you might want to use moves that allow you to emphasise the beat or change the way you dance a move to emphasise the beat.

The milonga is not about 200 different the steps or moves – its about playing with the rythm. The steps can be very easy, but its your playing with the music, that makes your dance milonga instead of tango.

That means you have to first hear or feel the beat in the music.

1. Feel the beat: Metronome

Walking to a metronome with encreasing speeds. You may count 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, to it or just rely on hearing or feeling the beat (every person is different in thes respect).

Speed 60 bmp – 120 bpm

You may notice that from a certain (individual) speed on, you will have problems keeping up with the beat. Making smalller steps will help you with this to a degree. But in the end it is because your muscles are not used to move your legs that fast. So training / dancing Milonga regularily will help you getting much better at fhis.

If you want to exercise this on your own, there are many metronome videos on youtube with different speeds. Just search for e.g. “Metronome 100 bpm”. Or you load a free metronome app onto yur phone.

2. Feel the beat: Trad. Milonga songs

Differences between Tango and Milonga:

  • The weight is more between your legs then on one foot (once you shifteds weight, you already move on)
  • Closer embrace (as tight as comfortable)
  • Clear counter-movement allowed
  • Smaller steps (half a foot to a quarter of a foot)

Francisco Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho – Milonga Sentimental– 74 bpm

Francisco Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho – El Firulete – 90 bpm

Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica – Milonga vieja milonga – 102 bpm

Miguel Caló y Raúl Berón – Milonga Que Peina Canas – 107 bpm

Miguel Caló y Raúl Berón – Azabache – 115 bpm

Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica – La Puñalada – 120 bpm

Juan D'Arienzo
Juan D’Arienzo in Action (Click pic for video)

3. Lower your stress level: Halving

In Tango, you don’t have to step on every beat – its up to you as your way of interpreting the music. In milonga, you can use this to make milonga less stressfull and more enjoyable: Step on every second beat. This is called “halving” because you dance half the speed of the music. Try this to the metronome and then to a song.

Metronome: 100 bpm – 110 bpm – 120 bpm

Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica – La Puñalada – 120 bpm

Its actually even more complicated, since in Tango you have different instruments that play different beats and together they form the dominant beat of the song. See below the link to the video “Rythmical Structure of Milonga” for details and options how to dance. But here we limit ourselves to the basic beat.

4. Vary speed: Change between halving and dancing every beat

Off course you don’t have to stay with one beat – it is much more interesting (but also difficult) to switch between stepping the beat and halving. Tipp: It may help to count 1-2, 1-2, and only make the step on the 2. Try it:

Metronome 100 bpm – 110 bpm – 120 bpm

Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica – Milonga vieja milonga – 102 bpm

5. Inrease the difficulty: Doubling

Now because milonga is supposed to be quick – some like it even quicker. To dance two steps on one beat doubles your speed compared to the basic beat. You wouldn’t do it all the time, but it spices up the dance. And somtime the music invites you to do so, because one instrument plays double time. Its can be hard, but try it – do two speps in double time (remember to push from the leg you are standing on), then back to normal speed:

Metronome Speed 60 bmp – 110 bpm

It may help to count 1-2,-1-2 with your steps in a way that only the 2 matches a beat in the music.

Francisco Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho – Milonga Sentimental– 74 bpm

Otros Aires – Milonga Sentimental – 100 bpm


6. Vary speed between halving, dancing every beat and doubling

Now try to play with the three speeds:

Tangorra Orquesta Atípica – Baldosa Floja – 92 bpm

7. Now with a partner

Milonga is much easier to dance in a close embrace – if both partners go well together. Otherwise: dance in open embrace.

Excurse: Dancing well together is not a question of ability / how advanced you are. Its a question of chemistry between the two partners. Sometimes (more often then visible) it doesn’t work between two very advanced dancers at all. Sometime there is suddenly magic between two beginners. If an advanced dancer is open minded he or she have make a fantastic dance with a beginner (if the beginner is not too preocupied with doing it right but goes with the flow). Advice: Search for persons you dance well wtih, dance with them often – try others again once in a while. Problem: If it doesn’t work between girlfriend / boyfriend or husband / wife (see that). Remember: Just because dancing is not working with someone doesn’t mean, they are not right for each other (don’t stess yourself: it changes with experience and exercise – one can either grow together with Tango or stess apart). And if dancing is fantastic with someone doesn’t mean they are the right ones for a relationship.

Slow milonga: Dance only forward, backward and side steps. Milonga is often danced without moving a lot on the dance flour. Do small steps. Half if you can.

Francisco Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho – Milonga Sentimental– 74 bpm

Role change

Miguel Caló y Raúl Berón – Azabache – 115 bpm

Role change

8. Use Proyección cortado, traspie, cortes, rock step moves to play with the beat

Tango moves, that stop a movement can be used very well in dancing milonga to accentuate the beat – use cut projections, traspie steps, cortes, rebotes (rock step) to enjoy dancing milonga (follow the link for descriptions and videos)

Try this to:

Miguel Caló y Raúl Berón – Milonga Que Peina Canas – 107 bpm

Role change

Traspie in milonga is not easy and needs a lesson on its own but here some videos about it

9. Ocho (Milongero)

While ochos are round movements that are well suited to be danced on the melody, you can also use them for milonga, if you dance them a bit different: The leader need to change them from a sideward movement into a forward movement (back ocho) or backward movement (forward ocho). Best its even entered not from a side-step, but by the leader going into the third lane and then make the silent foot change and start the ocho. The follower doesn’t need to pivot as much or not at all (in extreme it can be just a backward (forward) walk) or a turning on the spot.

Try it with this:

Osvaldo Pugliese – Milonga del soldado – 91 bpm

role change

10. Ocho cortado & cross

The ocho cortado is well suited for milonga. We did shortly show it and let you try – but if it is new for you, the ocho cortado deserves an whole lesson on its own.

Francisco Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho – Milonga Sentimental – 74 bpm

roll change


Review Ocho cortado (in general – not specifically for milonga):

11. Milonga & turns

Turns (like the giro, the media luna, the mulinette) are usually used to dance melody, not rythm. But that dosn’t mean, you can’t use them for milonga – if you do them on the rythm. That means mostly the follower has to set each step ON the beat – no speeding up or slowing down. The leader can support this by making (more or less silent) weight changes with every beat.

Lets try this with a giro to the left of the leader (counterclockwise).

Francisco Canaro y su Quinteto Pirincho – Milonga Sentimental – 74 bpm

Roll change.

Review giro to the left (in general – not specifically for milonga):

Giros in Milonga

If you want to review the mulinette which is needed by the follower for this giros.


Here michelle + joachim use all the elements we explored in the last two lessons to a slow milonga:
Double- and half-timing, ochos, stops, cross and giros (Music: Farncisco Canaro: Larga las Penas, 82 bpm)


Theory and more music

The 3 main differences between tango and milonga dancing (video)

Rythmical Structure of Milonga – coole Visualisierung

Tango top 5: Milongas! The best traditional milongas to dance to. With lyrics translated. (Mid-tempo, 100-110 bpm)

Tango Top 5: Modern Milongas for dancing. Tango lyrics translated.

Tomáš Kohl – Milonga! Milonga! Milonga!

Dance videos

Very fast milonga – danced slowly: Milonga del Ayer – Craig Einhorn (136- 140 bpm)

Very fast milonga – danced fast: Milonga Para As Missões – Renato Borghetti (Guitar: 120 bpm, Bendoneon: ca. 312 bpm)