Random Tango thoughts
Here is my personal take on what to do, how to do it and where to go when on a tango journey in BsAs. This guide is part of my journey, and will probably be relevant to others around my age, my sex and my dancing inclination. Nothing is set or certain in tango, but so long as you try places out and find some where you feel comfortable, then luck will be yours.
Try to learn some basic Spanish; don’t assume they will speak English. You are, afterall, a guest in their country. This will also make milongas more enjoyable as there is a lot of conversation in between songs.Which usually goes along the lines of :
Him: blablabla blablabla
You: blank look
Him: What’s your name/ where are you from/ sydney is the capital of australia/ how long are you here for?/ let’s have coffee…. (in spanish of course)
If you can answer these questions and a bit more, I reckon they enjoy the dance a bit more as well.
I always arrange for taxi service before I arrive. I usually use Dante because he is reliable; catch other taxis on the right side of the road.
Buses: To ride the buses you need to be a little observant, because finding a bus stop is a bit tricky, and you need to watch out for the proper bus numbers.I am a bit of a bus person; I like to watch the scenery go by. These days buying a SUBE card is the go. It’s half price, and saves you scrabbling around for monedas (coins). Apparently you can buy SUBE cards in some kioscos; Jan did, but I never found one. You hop on the bus and tell the driver where you want to go, use the SUBE or put the money in the machine. The machines give change but DO NOT take paper money. The buses go mostly everywhere and nearly all the time.
Subte: when you rent your apartment, they usually tell you what the cross streets are. This is handy for taxis, buses and the subte. Try to get a flat near the subte. The metro is efficient, crowded at peak times, and closes around 10pm.
Milongas: I go to these places because I mainly get dances with older men(see previous post). I get nervous dancing with young men whose embraces are very light. I want to feel secure (not crushed). The quality of the dancing is high, although perspectives can changes as your own dancing improves. When you first arrive, you can book a seat, or you can chance it. Arrive on time. If you stay several weeks, the organisers will recognise you, eventually, and seat you accordingly, even if you arrive a little late. I took to sitting in the second row at the left hand side of the room at El Beso because I had a good view. Try to get a regular seat. Some milongas that used to work for me, no longer do so, such as Salon Canning. It worked a treat for my friend Karla. Get the tango map guide, and try out places. Tango maps are available at shoe stores and at milongas. I like to go where the floor is good as well as the dancers. IN all these venues cabeceo is de rigeur
Mondays: La Nacional, Alsina 1462 6pm onwards fab floor – my favourite this year. I had my best Pugliese and milonga tandas there.
Tuesdays: Nuevo Chique San Jose y Alsina 4pm onwards – very relaxed, good entry point for experiencing milongas; floor a bit iffy
Cachirulo at El Beso Riobamba 8 pm – some snobby dancers, mostly good, great floor. or Salon Canning Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, 11pm Younger /mixed crowd, Porteno Y Bailarin, which has become a bit seedy at 11pm on Riobmba, handy to get to from El Beso.
Wednesdays: Lo de Celia is a bit disappointing; full of old people who danced better last year Humberto Primo 6pm,
La Milonguita, in a newish venue on Armenia 7pm, opposite La Viruta. Mix of groups, couples and singles. A lot of people then go on to La Piccola Milonga on Rivadavia 10pm. Small venue, Dany the Dj is an interesting dancer
Thursdays:More Nuevo Chique in the afternoon, Lujos at El Beso 6.30pm Gricel on LaRioja is good early for some, later for others. Has a reputation as a pick up joint, but I found that lots of people just wanted a good dance.
Fridays: Yira Yira, Alsina 1462 11pm, a high energy mix of young and old, Salon Canning
Saturdays: always a bit iffy. We went to the new Cachirulos at Obelisco Tango. Same dancers, maybe a few more, the venue is new, which is Ok , but the floor is fake lino wood, and has warped, which is not ok. Saturdays is couples night in many milongas.
Sundays: Some local women swear by La Glorieta which is an outdoor milonga in the summer season; I found too much standing and worrying about my bag. Plaza Bohemia on Alsina 2540, 6pm was full of nice dancers on a bit of a slopy floor. There is also Porteno Y Bailarin, which is a bit quiet and good opportunity to get dances with if you are lucky Roberto the doctor and Marcello the taxi driver amongst a few. Or El Beso, yet again, remembering that this is where snobby good dancers go. Porteno is a bit more casual, but still just as hard.
I used to go from one place to another in one night, but as I was more relaxed this year, I gave the milongas a bit more of a chance, even if I didn’t get that many dances. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the dance that one wants, rather than the quantity – easy to say if you haven’t been sitting on that seat for an hour and a half….You will not read me mention Villa Malcolm, Peru , La Viruta or la Catedral because i don’t have a good time there. This does not mean that the same will happen to you. It is full of a younger crowd whose embrace I don’t particularly like. If you meet locals, they will tell you of their favourite small local milonga. It is worth a try.
So many to choose from…Everyone will give you advice and their favourites. I would suggest going to the Escuela de Tango in the Galleria Pacifico on Viamonte. Try out some teachers, and if you like them, then take some privates. Expect to go back to basics, like walking and pivots. This year I went to DNI tango on Bulnes. Lots of young people, lots of european tourists. They have a particular way of teaching that takes getting used to. After about 6 days in a row, I came to appreciate them. We dance very much in that style back home. They talk about body mechanics and in terms that are at once easy and hard to understand.
Expect the unexpected. You will ask for red and they’ll bring you gold. Be patient. Don’t purchase in a rush. Buy what is comfortable, early in the day before you’ve walked around much or taken too many classes
Don’t touch the fruit at stalls; they will pick it and bag it for you – saves bruising.
When you go to a cafe, there is always table service; at milongas you can usually pay your waitress at the end of the night. If you leave her a nice tip (10% plus) she will give you better service.
Wait persons: you usually have one; another will not serve you. they earn minimum wage, and live on tips. We earn heaps so please be generous.
Toilets: most places will ask you to place the toilet paper in the bin. The plumbing still has a lot to be desired, and it is easy to forget, but please do so when you pee. There are toilet attendants who supply paper, and towels and other toiletries. This is how they earn their living, so please give a tip. Silvia works both Nuevo Chique and Lo de Celia. If you go there, call her by her name.
Security: they are very conscious of this. Some shops will still be locked and you will need to ring a bell or knock on the door. Taconeando or Fatto Mano have no sign. When you ring the buzzer, you will need to say: “Para zapatos” or something similar.
Purchasing: cash is always better
Buenos Aires is so much more than Tango. While I haven’t done much tourism, other friends have gone to galleries, museums, the theatre. You probably know someone who has come here; get their point of view, do some research online, and then come experience it for yourself. You need at least a month to get in the groove; any less and you’ re kidding yourself.