“Mugre” is a word you may have heard in tango often by more experienced tango dancers.
You may hear them comment “they have great technique but their tango lacks a bit of mugre”.
And if you look up the dictionary definition of “mugre” (pronounced /mu:grei/) – you might be surprised to find that literally it translates as: “dirt”!
Yes, that’s right. Dirt! And yet it seems to have a bit of “dirt” in your tango is perceived as a good thing. How can this be the case?
We’re all striving towards perfection … aren’t we?
Perhaps not. Maybe perfection isn’t something that we want to see after all. Maybe we’d prefer something with a little bit more grit?
Yes, tango technique is important, musicality, creativity and expression too. But to cap it all it’s great to see a tango dancer with just a touch of mugre.
It’s difficult to explain what “mugre” looks like to someone who is not deeply involved with tango. But rest assured it is nothing to do with the way someone dresses or their personal hygiene!
On the contrary, it is part of the traditional culture of tango that one should go to the milonga washed, well-dressed and spelling fragrant. It is a mark of respect for the partners you intend to dance with that night. And I would go so far as saying that this should apply to classes too.
But your dance should have a bit of mugre.
Because who cares about perfect technique if you can’t see soul, expression, connection? If what you see doesn’t make you feel something.
It is partly because tango is an improvised that mugre is aspirational. Because a slick, polished choreography can be wonderful to watch but it doesn’t have that beautiful live quality that an improvisation has – despite its flaws. It’s kind of nice to see dancers smile wryly when something doesn’t quite go to plan. The odd misstep seems to be part and parcel of an improvisation.
So is it time to press pause on our technique exercises? And our continued learning path in tango?
Unfortunately, mugre without technique just doesn’t cut it. It’s no excuse for bad dancing. In fact, you have to be a damn good dancer, with a bucket load of experience, to look good with mugre.
Perhaps this seems an impossible goal then but for me the moral is this: continue to explore, strive always to better than yesterday. But relax if it isn’t perfect. It’s mugre! Let go and enjoy!