Clarry Smits (seen here with dance partner Lorie) is one of the top tango dancers and instructors in Vancouver, Canada. He also runs Tango a Media Luz, a popular Vancouver milonga that features Golden Age tango every Friday night.
Clarry recently visited Buenos Aires and I asked him about his tango experience in “the Paris of South America”. He offered some wonderful tips on milongas, tango schools, and other tango-related topics. Read them below.
What are your favorite Buenos Aires milongas?
My favorite milongas in Buenos Aires seem to differ every time I go there. It depends a lot on the visiting transient population at the time.
I like Niño Bien on Saturday night. A lot of the good dancers go there on a Saturday night. Friday night at Niño Bien is a posing night. A lot of well dressed beautiful ladies go there to see and be seen not necessarily to dance. It is a night for socializing. It was a puzzle to me at first until I was enlightened by a local Tanguera.
I love Sunderland. The floor always seems to move well there. The food is also very good and affordable. It is a popular haunt for a lot of the maestros. I enjoy watching them dance socially when they are not performing.
Confiteria Ideal is great for their afternoon milonga. The ambiance there is very comfortable. An older crowd. Sometimes they have live music.
Salon Canning is a must. There is always good energy. Many good dancers. Also a favorite haunt for the maestros. They also usually have a live band there which is a wonderful experience.
What are your least favorite milongas?
Every time I have been to Club Gricel it has been a zoo. Bad floorcraft, crazy dancers. But, I have friends who have been there and absolutely loved it.
Maipu 444 was also a bit odd for me. The music was good, the hosts were very friendly but they had the Argentine men on one side, women on the other thing happening. I don’t find that very social at all. It is their way. It is not my way.
What’s the best tango show?
I have only been to two shows so I cannot really comment. I am not that interested in tango shows. I saw the show at El Viejo Almacen which I enjoyed. But the dinner before was awful. The other show was the one by Carlos Copes. Again, I enjoyed the show but the food wasn’t that great. I found the shows to be designed for the tourists. So they were expensive.
Who are your favorite tango performers?
I like Gustavo Naveira and Giselle-Ann, Chicho Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda, Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, Pablo Inza, Carlos Gavito, Hugo Patyn, Miriam Larici, Geraldine Rojas, Cecilia Gonzales, Milena Plebs, Mora Godoy… my list is endless, but those are the top ones for me. I prefer tangueros to tango performers. Tango performances can be pulled off by any good jazz dancer. Tango requires soul and passion and an intimate one on one connection.
I like lots of Apilado style dancers who are not performers. They are not necessarily Milongueros. Milonguero is not a style. It is a way of life. The “Milonguero Style” was something created for the USA market. Most of the Milongueros dance Apilado. Dancers who dance with their heart driven by an emotion created by the music. Puppy Castello, Ricardo Vidort, El Chino Perico, Pepito Avellaneda, Alberto Dasseiu. Lots more. Some here, some passed away.
What’s the best tango school? Who are the best instructors?
I like DNI for more advanced nuevo style tango. The old studio was small and crowded their new studio is great. Run by Pablo Villaraza and Dana Frigoli. Also a great place to buy shoes.
I also like Tango Brujo and Escuela Argentina de Tango. I found that with Escuela Argentina de Tango it is not uncommon that the instructors you hoped to work with who are listed in the schedule are either late or miss their class completely. This is annoying at times.
As for instructors, all of those mentioned above as favorite performers. If you can get them and in no particular order: Natasha Probej, Soledad Larratapia, (followers techniques), Pablo Villaraza and Dana Frigoli, Martin Gutierrez, Matias Facio.
Where is the best place to buy tango shoes in Buenos Aires?
DNI for good men’s shoes and Neo shoes makes comfortable shoes for tangueras. Also Tango Brujo and Fabio for ladies and mens shoes.
Any other tips for tango dancers planning their first trip to BA?
Not everywhere takes Visa or US$.
You can only take out $100 per time from the ATM’s and have to pay about $3 to $5 each time.
US$ can only be exchanged at approved Money Exchange offices. Some banks will only do it if you are a customer. Of course you can get it on the street but caveat emptor.
Check out Clarry’s website for more information on the Tango a Media Luz milonga.Tango