If you want to dance tango in Buenos Aires, where do you go?
A good question, but this depends on many things: your age, what style you dance, what day or night of the week you want to go out, if you go with or without a partner, and so on…
Dancing social tango in Buenos Aires has nothing to do with the Tango Show Dancing on the streets of San Telmo, Caminito, calle Florida, or Recoleta, or the many Tango Dinner Shows with an orchestra, stage dancers, singers, and dinner. The first thing to know about tango is that what you’ll see in those places is a different dance – Tango Entertainment for Export. And that is another post entirely!
Types of Tango Salons in Buenos Aires
First, a tip: when checking where to go to mingle with the locals in Buenos Aires on the dance floor, remember that dances in the same salon vary greatly depending on the organizer, day of the week, time of day etc. In other words, every milonga at Region Leonesa or Canning will not be the same. Plus milongas tend to open and close every week, so it’s always a good idea to call first.
Before venturing out for a night of tango dancing, it’s a good idea to check the listings in the quarterly magazine, B.A. Tango, available free in milongas, shoe shops, and for online download on tangocherie.
The following is a general break-down of the different types of places to dance tango in Buenos Aires, with some examples of each…
SALON DE BAILE
A formal atmosphere especially for traditional dancing, with predominantly elegant attire, tables with tablecloths, uniformed waiters, tango codes are strictly respected, professional DJs play tango, vals and milonga music of the 1930′s-50′s, often with tandas (sets) of Latin and occasionally folklore. The public here is older (50-80) with an intermediate to high level of dancing in the close-embrace milonguero style. Women and men sit on opposite sides of the salon and use the cabeceo (traditional nodding of the head as an invitation to dance). The afternoon milongas tend to be more formal and traditional than the late night dances.
Examples in Buenos Aires: El Arranque, Gricel, Salon Canning, Los Consagrados, Lo de Celia, El Beso, Nuevo Chique, La Nacional, Plaza Bohemia.
This old-fashioned type of tea salon has many of the same characteristics of the Salons de Baile, but it is open as a salon de the. The public is more varied, with lots of groups. The only example today is the Confiteria Ideal, which is famous for its long life and its architecture, as well as for starring in all of the tango movies. La Confiteria El Molino is another example (on the corner of Callao y Rivadavia) but it has been closed and barren for several years.
CLUB DE BARRIO
The dance floors are cement basketball courts or the club restaurant. Meals are usually available. Predominantly attended by the neighborhood families and older married couples; the music includes tango, jazz and tropical.
Examples in Buenos Aires: Sin Rumbo, Los Bohemios, Sunderland, Club Chicago.
Informal atmosphere, young public (18-30), variety of casual dress, often with live music and dance exhibitions. More relaxed standards, a more diverse level of dancing, and more salon-style than close embrace. You will hear the music of Piazzola, some rock ‘n’ roll, as well as salsa and cumbia, and tango alternitivo. The ambiance is informal without respect to the formal codigos.
Outdoor milongas that attract a wide variety of dancers.
Informal, bare-bones ambiance, no professional DJ.
Examples in Buenos Aires: El Motivo, Tangocool, Soho Tango.
Informal, relaxed atmosphere, anybody can dance with anybody, alternative music along with the classics.
Examples in Buenos Aires: La Marshall, TangoQueer.
Experience Authentic Social Tango in Buenos Aires
If you want to experience authentic social tango, you really need to know the best places for you to go to watch and dance. You could pick up one of the many free tango publications from shoe salons and hotels which list all of the milongas (places to dance social tango), but unless you have lots of time and money to explore each one, you can’t tell which is right for you. And that’s why Ruben & Cherie provide a service to help tango tourists get the most out of their visits to Buenos Aires. They know where you can have the most fun and how to break the codigos, and will even take you there themselves and dance with you. Check out the details on Cherie’s blog. Cherie’s book, The Church of Tango: a Memoir is available world-wide on Amazon in paper and for Kindle.Need To Know, Tango, Things To Do