I had an epiphany today. I came to the conclusion that tango milonga is actually rather fun and not a boring nonsensefest with no real wit or panache to it.

Of course, this coincided with my inner aspie deciding that this wonderfully mathematical dance needs a notation system. Because whereas most Argentine tango is improvised, the speeds at which milonga music goes mean that it helps to think in discrete blocks of steps so as not to end up in a horrendous flabble. I then came up with one, and here it is.

What I did was break every possible variant of a block of steps down into a few alphanumeric characters, so, in theory, one can recreate a dance to a given tune by memorising and then repeating the actions signified by this. I know that you're already thinking, philistine! He's going to take all the magic out of it! The bastard! but quite frankly, I'm not all that bothered. At least I've not thrown in headsnaps or (ugh) the Gotán Project...

So here's how it goes. It's all from the point of view of the leader just so you know:

  • 6 - The number indicates how many steps in that block. This can be 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 as most commonly. For the avoidance of doubt a block consists of a backstep, a sidestep to the left, however many forwards, then sidestep to the right, then feet together. If, however, you are dancing to the theme from Mission: Impossible, then you may find yourself confronted with a 5 or a 7.

  • T - This, at the front of the notation, means "truncate" and means you just pitch in to the forwards (albeit with the first one diagonally so you don't bulldoze your lady into the tiles.)

  • X - An X at the end means one of the forward steps is a cross. If there's multiple Xs at the end then you put in that many cross steps. Where you do them is up to you, but generally if the number of X's is higher than the number of steps in the block, the person writing the notation is either high or is dancing in the TARDIS.

  • I - If this letter is at the front then it means "inverted," or that the block of steps is done mirrored in the Y axis. This means rather than back-left-forwards...right-close, it's back-right-forwards...left-close. How you squeeze in the double shuffle necessary for this is your problem.

  • } - This character, which looks like a crotchet rest in standard musical notation, means you stay still for a beat. If it's mid-block, you do a rock step on the spot.

  • Underlining - Underlining anything means it's in double time. If the whole block is underlined it's all in double time, if an X is underlined, only that cross is.

Got all that? Good.

So, 6 means back-left-forwards-forwards-forwards-right-together, 8X means the overused sequence of back-left-forward-forward-cross-right-together, T4 means diagaforwards-forward-right-together, T10XX means diagaforwards-forwards-cross-forwards-forwards-cross-forwards-forwards-right-together, and I15XXXX means you fall in an undignified heap atop your partner (though this may be the intended outcome.)

Still with it? Good.

Now let's see what you're made of. My tango instructor once claimed you can dance milonga to anything with a beat, and then demonstrated with "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" by Kylie Minogue. Well now. I've done the following notation to "Hangar 18" by Megadeth. Good luck.

8 8X 8X 8 6 6 6 8 6 T4 }}}} T6X }} T6X }}} T4 T4 8 8X 8 6 }} 16XX 16XX 8 8 8X 8 8 8X T6 T6 6 6 }} 6 }} T4 T4 T4 T4 T4 T4 T8XX T4 T4 }} T6 8X 8X 8X } 8X 8 8 }} 6 6 }} T4 T4 }} 6 8 8X 8X 8 8 8 8 } 6 } I8 I6 }} I6 I8 }} 8 8X 8X 8 16XXX 16XXX I6 I6 I6 I6 I8X }} T4 T4 }} 8X 8 8 8X T4 T4 6 8 6 T4 T4 6 8 6 }} 10 6 10 6 12 T4 T4 12 T8 8 8 T8 T8X IT4 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8X 8X T6 }} 8X 8X T6 }} 8X 8X 8X 8X 8X 20XX }}} T8X

And breathe.

(No, for the record, I have not found anyone batshit insane enough to try and dance milonga to Megadeth with.)