Tango DJing – Practica vs Milonga
When it comes to Tango DJing, there are so many different aspects to building Tandas, working on the flow of a playlist, live editing, making cortinas, matching artists, and so much more. One place that rules are more relaxed in both social etiquette and DJ etiquette is when it comes to practicas. A Practica is different than a Milonga in many ways, and the main one is the formality. People openly ask others to dance a majority of the time, the focus is on practicing usually, sometimes people teach or guide other, sometime you may see people solo practicing to get better. Bringing new music, changing artists more frequently, mixing, and more can sometimes be allowed, or even encouraged.
Intent & Community
The community dictates what is acceptable in Practicas and Milongas, and is usually best to observe or dance in them before you attempt to DJ, or at least get feedback from whoever is running the event on what they want and how it has been run in the past when it comes to music.
Does the Practica hold true to Milongas with a 3 song tanda and a cortina? Is alternative music or nuevo music okay to play? Milonga or Vals okay to play, do others dancers show and a swing, salsa, bachata, or other dance music desired to be included? Does the space have their own equipment? Many more questions can also be asked, but as you can see this can vary wildly and can offer much more freedom, or can be just as restrictive.
When it comes to practicas, what are the rules? Other than what is given by the community and the host, there aren’t very many, other than you’re trying to make an environment for those to practice. As open ended as this is, there are options for making the Practica your own, which is much easier or harder to do than a Milonga depending on your perspective. To get an idea of what I mean, here are some examples.
Cortinas are quite often optional. This changes depending on the DJ, but I personally believe Cortinas do not belong at Practicas. Why? If people are practicing, I feel you should be able to go on and off the dance floor at any time, without a prompt of the cortina to when something is over and to switch partners. I also find that if I’m still going to dance with someone and work, the cortina breaks up the focus too much for me and my partner.
Artist Groups can also be different, you can mix similar sounding artists more, especially without tandas or cortinas to hear and test the flow. Maybe mixing at 2 songs per artist, going from DeSarli, to Trilio, to Calo, to Donato. You can bring some of those obscure songs you may like into a group and they will be moved through to another set rather quickly. Still trying to keep at least things in 2 song sets.
Mixing Alternative/Nuevo is also something you can fit in. Mou to mix in some nuevo music or alternative music in short bursts, maybe including a popular song, then something completely new to see how people react. Since there is no Cortina, many people stay on the floor for longer and will attempt to dance to the new music. Maybe you’ll see people hitting some beat you didn’t think of. Being able to throw little options in here and there, people will give you more immediate feedback of enjoyment or disgust, very openly. As is the nature of the practica.
Community Reactions are a wonderful thing. There have been Tandas and music I love, and enjoy dancing to, but watching some community members dance to the tanda or part of it, maybe even one song, can change my perspective. There have been many times after watching the community dance, see their struggle, or looks as they try to find something to dance to, I know not to have that set or song when it comes to a Milonga. If the community was bigger, I’m sure many others may love it, but sometimes a more advanced or complex song, whether traditional or alternative, might be too much. The opposite can be true too! You may find more people love that song or set that they haven’t heard, or that the energy just skyrockets. Moments like that are my favorite part of Practicas, it lets me practice song combinations and see what works!
Now we get to Milongas, where there are usually pretty heavy set rules. WHen it comes to Alternative Milongas and throwing in Nuevo music too, things are a little more lax, but most of these are indeed there anyways.
Tanda Order is the number one rule when it comes to Milongas. When you dance, you hear the order of the music, and it follows a pattern. At a Traditional Milonga, you have an order of TT(V/M). So you’l have 2 Tango Tandas, the either a Vals or a Milonga Tanda next, then back to 2 Tango Tandas, then Vals or Milonga, whichever was not used previously. This gives flow. You’ll find this everywhere, and even when it comes to Alternative Milongas, this rule should apply, but can be bent.
If you DJing for alternative, 50/50, or others, you have options available to you. If you’re just having alernative or nuevo in your mix, you can replace a Milonga or Vals set for Alternative or Nuevo, but my suggestion is, either do it earlier in the night or later, depending on the crowd.
TTV-TTM-TTAlt-TTV-TTM-TTAlt or TTV-TTA-TTM-TTV-TTA-TTM
If you’re running a 50/50 something like:
T-T(a)-V | T(a)-T-M(a) then T(a)-T-V(a) | T-T(a)-M
Notice the double alternative at the Milonga bit? Usually best when the energy is high to move the rotation, same can be done at the traditional bits, do it around the Vals or Milonga. There are other combinations of course, and it’s open to you to make the dance flow, but also feel like tango! Of course I’m listing Alternative, but Nuevo music is interchangeable of course.
Cortinas are also something every Milonga I’ve been to have had, expect when it’s bee advertised as much or live music. Some Alternative nights have zero Cortinas, but are few and usually dependent on the DJ. Good Cortinas that match the mood of the music before or after can sometimes be harder than making a tanda, but when done right, people wont notice any hindrance in flow. When done wrong, interrupts the mood, so tread lightly, this skill comes with time or a really good ear.
La Cumparsita is also something that ends all Milongas, for the most part. Sometimes there are two back to back at the end. Usually the last Tanda is announced, and La Cumparsita is played after. It’s a good ending to the night. If you are at a Marathon though, you may not wish to end with La Cumparsita to finish your set, instead you may wish to have something more romantic, or something that has an ending feeling. This can be your own signature as a DJ, maybe starting or ending with a certain song or type. Sometimes people will end with a Chacarera, which can be a fun ending to the night. Other times a Chacarera or two may be in the middle of a Milonga or not at all.