There is Tango, then there is Milanga. Milanga houses can be found throughout Buenos Aires and this is where the locals go dancing for themselves. The scene is genuine and so very romantic. Men stay on one side of the room and women stay on the other. When a song begins to play the men will approach the women asking for their hand to dance. Such chivalry and I love it.
The woman is free to decline, but mostly dance partners changed throughout the night. Young, older and middle-aged dancers from every part of society became one in the dance hall. There were more sensuality and beauty in this room than “The Last Tango in Paris.” I’ve never felt anything like this before and I was merely tucked off to the side of the dance floor with my camera.
The milonga is a very special thing. A simple description is an organized event where people can dance the tango. The word milonga also is a type of tango music and a style of dance that is performed to that music. On any night in Buenos Aires, you can find a milonga filled with people sitting around the dance floor, drinking their wine or champagne and watching, and being watched. But not everyone in the milonga is the same. Oh no, that would not be tango. Everyone has a role to play and there are definite hierarchies in place. There are maestros that travel and teach around the world, there are tangureros that perform on stage and for your tourist pleasure in La Boca and San Telmo, there are the organizers that provide spaces for dancing, there are DJ’s that keep the dance floor moving, there are live orchestras and tango singers. There are the tango “sharks” that prey on tourists in the milongas. There are the old milongueros who were probably one of the above in their youth, but now they come to the milongas, not because they want to dance, but because it is what they have always done.
The people that go to milongas are not professional dancers. They have “real jobs” and simply love tango.
The night at the Milango was one of the most beautiful nights I experienced in Buenos Aires. The scene was straight out of a romantic movie except this night was real.
Where can you see the Milonga?
La Catedral del Tango
Sarmiento 4006 (Casi Esquina Medrano) Buenos Aires
When to go: Any day of the week, but Wednesdays and Saturdays are the most popular.
When to arrive: The milonga starts at 11 pm.
When things get good: Lots of people stay after the class to practice what they have learned.
Why you should go: La Catedral is an institution. It is definitely one the unique spaces in Buenos Aires and has a very relaxed feel. You won’t see a lot of top dancers there because the floor is not the best but this is what makes it a comfortable space for beginners to give it a try. They have classes for beginners every day starting between 6 and 7 pm. Contact them for details.
Pro tip: Dress casually; the atmosphere is something like a dive bar.
La Milonga de Los Zucca
Humberto Primo 1492, Buenos Aires
Tel: 15-6257-7513. (text only)
When to go: Thursdays
When to arrive: Before 11 pm.
When things get good: Around midnight.
Why you should go: If you want to see men in bespoke suits and women in their best dresses, this is the place to go. Located in a grand old hall there has been a milonga every Thursday in this space for years
Pro tip: Make a reservation and dress to impress.
La Milonga del Indio
Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo
When to go: Sundays
When to arrive: Go find a good spot to sit when the market closes.
When things get good: Most dancers arrive around sundown.
Why you should go: This milonga is located in the middle of the San Telmo market. It is very casual and relaxed and happens every Sunday, cancelled only if it rains. It is very relaxed and you definitely won’t be the only tourist taking photos.
Pro tip: Bring bug spray… the mosquitos come out after dark just like the tango dancers.
Armenia 1366, Buenos Aires
When to go: Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays
When to arrive: Around 2 am (I said late night didn’t I?)
When things get good: Around 3:30 or 4 am the dance floor is at its max and everyone has arrived.
Why you should go: La Virata has the feel of a dance club that just happens to play tango music. It is something like the after party of tango – EVERYONE goes here when the regular milongas end but they don’t want to stop dancing.
Pro tip: Ask the waiter to seat you or expect to be moved from your seat later. Also on Friday and Saturday after 4 am they serve “Desayuno” (medialunas and coffee). Don’t wait too late to order on busy nights; they have been known to sell out. All the tango dancers agree they are some of the best medialunas in the city.
Suipacha 384, Buenos Aires
When to go: They have matinee milongas (starting at 2 or 3 pm) every day of the week except Tuesdays and evening milongas (10 pm) on Saturdays.
When to arrive: around 3:30 pm
When things get good: between 4 and 5 pm
Why you should go: Located inside a famous confitería (pastry shop) in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, since 1912 Confitería Ideal is worth going just for the beautiful architecture. Many famous Argentine politicians and celebrities have dined there. Pro tip: It’s a great place for merienda while you watch the dancers.
El Yeite Tango Club
Av. Cordoba 4175, Buenos Aires
When to go: Mondays or Thursdays
When to arrive: Around 1:30 am if you want to sit down. 3 am if you don’t mind standing by the bar.
When things get good: 3 am when everyone heads to El Yeite after leaving the other milongas
Why you should go: If you want to be part of the “scene” and see the best up-and-coming dancers this is the place to go. They go to see and be seen. A young crowd the keeps the environment and the dancing high energy.
Pro tip: The milonga is held upstairs. If you go on Thursdays there is salsa and bachata happening on the downstairs dance floor.
Throughout Buenos Aires, you can find tango performed on the streets and tango in huge dinner theatres.
Destination: Buenos Aires