The air is poignant with passion, energy and magnetic sensuality, ladies are dressed in colorful dresses and men are full of machismo, they are all beautifully gyrating to ethereal music under the beautiful Grecian sky. You would be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed on the set of a telenovela, but this is just a normal evening in Greece and Milonga is the reason for all this Milonga a musical genre full of passion and emotion that originated in Argentina and Uruguay, has somehow managed to cross oceans and make a new home in Greece, and many ordinary day to day people have suddenly become ardent milongueros.
When we think of the Greeks, we think of art, drama, poetry, philosophy and technology. So how did dance become incorporated into their culture? Well times have changed, and this is no longer the Greece of old which was an economic powerhouse to reckon with The economy is in shambles and the country is wallowing in debt and poverty and what was formerly a great country is now a shell of its former self. These huge changes have forced the people to also change and adopt new ways of life. This change is no more obvious than in the adoption of Milonga into the Greek way of life. Due to the economic crisis the Greeks have been forced to find affordable ways to have fun and Milonga is one of the few emerging ways to let loose and get entertained without spending a coin, and the adoption of this dance is not an unimaginable stretch, seeing as Milongas are full of drama and Greeks have always been famous for their dramatic flair in Greek tragedies.
Argentinian milongas were inspired by the despair, love and loss felt by immigrants far away from their home countries, these immigrants found an escape in music and dance. This same despair can be compared to what the Greeks are currently experiencing, with loss of jobs, potential poverty and the refugee crisis currently going on in Greece. Therefore just as the Milongas offered reprieve to the Argentinian immigrants in the 1880's it is now offering the Greeks an escape from their dreary existence. The only difference between the Greek and Argentinian Milongas is that in Argentina Milonga was considered taboo for almost a century, and even banned for a while until it was later made popular in cities like Paris by high society kids. Whereas in Greece it is and has always been a form of expression and freedom appreciated by anyone and everyone. Despite the stark difference in the origin of Milonga in these two countries the feeling evoked from the Musical genre is the same. The sense of passion and drama evoked in Athens is the same as that in Buenos Aires.
The original Argentine Milongas was centered towards the lower classes society that revolved around gambling, drinking, and dirty dancing. In fact many casinos of the region hosted Milongas in order to boost crowds and attract potential gamblers into the casino who were mostly young men between 15-25 years old. By the time the dance was imported to Paris in the late 1800’s, the theme and style of Tango was modified and formatted for theatrical venues which later actually was incorporated into the dancing styles seen in Cabaret and Burlesque. What better way to dance in high heels than tango- right? It became more passionate and seductive with was appealing for theater owners to attract an audience. In the European society, the attitudes of social ethics and casinos were associated with status and elegance, hence the reason why modern Tango dress is formal 100% of the time. Look at any respected casino across France and you’ll see folks dressed like James Bond in a classic full evening dress (sometimes called formal-wear) and women dressed in elegant gowns looking like a Princess or Dutchess. You can experience the old school Monte Carlo casino experience for free with the types of great table games that made the thrill of the casino so attractive to the upper classes. Now you can try it here without spending a cent and with no risk whatsoever. If you like Tango these games bring out the passion and intrigue of the dance in a very different way.
The Greeks have always considered Argentinians kindred spirits. Since their plight has been similar in so many ways. Both countries suffered from recession, unemployment and government deficits. The only difference is that Argentina rose from the ashes of economic meltdown while Greece is still trying to leave their dark past behind. It is then, no wonder that they gravitated towards this Argentinian dance as a symbol of hope that they too can overcome their current situation. If it were not for Milongas, most of which are free, most Greeks claim that they would have fallen into depression. These daily dances offer them an escape from the burden of day to day living that their country is facing in form of joblessness and poverty, they also offer good unification points for people from all walks of life to interact and share their problems. Who knew something as insignificant as dance could play such a major role in unifying crumbling societies and helping them heal in the midst of unendurable crisis.
Armed with this knowledge, anytime you're visiting Greece feel free to carry your dancing shoes and let loose in the streets of Athens to some wonderful music, great dance moves and wonderful company. At best you will learn something new and at worst you will have fun, and what is so terrible about that?