Dancing the Night Away

Buenos Aires was the birthplace of Argentine Tango, and experiencing the dance is an essential part of any visitor’s experience in the city. You could do this through seeing a tango show—there are plenty constantly being marketed to tourists—but the best way to experience tango is to do so first-hand by attending a milonga.

The milonga La Viruta de Solanas.

A milonga is a club for dancing tango, and there’s pretty much at least one happening every night of the week from early evening to early into the following morning. Some have cover fees; some are free to enter, and a great resource for finding them is hoy-milonga.com.

You don’t have to know how to dance tango to attend a milonga. They are set up with tables surrounding a dance floor, so it’s possible to just watch the dancers dance while enjoying a drink or some food. Additionally, a lot of milongas offer lessons before the dancing officially starts for the evening, so newbies can pick up the basic steps before hitting the dance floor.

My mom hits the dance floor showing after a lesson.

I’ve now visited three different milongas and taken five different lessons, and I can confidently say that I don’t like dancing tango. I’m not a good follower, and I don’t have a good enough grasp of the musicality to do a good job leading. I get too caught up in my own steps to feel the movement and the music. Plus, the tango embrace, which is essentially a hug, is stifling for me. But I am still glad that I went to multiple milongas and tried out the dance multiple times.

A class at the milonga La Catedral Club, which is in a building from 1880 that used to be a grain silo, dairy factory and refrigeration warehouse.

As a field trip for my History of Tango class, we attended Tango Queer, a milonga that fights some of the “machoness” inherit in tango by having everyone learn both to lead and to follow. I’d highly recommend it as a first-time venue because understanding the mechanics of leading and following help you become a better leader and a better follower. After struggling through leading, I was better able to pick up on some of the cues given to me as a follower.

Dancers at La Viruta de Solanas dancing the chacarera, an Argentine folk dance.

My favorite milonga though is La Viruta, a milonga that not only offers tango classes, but classes in rock, swing, folk dancing and more. I like La Viruta because it’s not all tango. It’s still a milonga, but you can experience multiple styles of dance. It’s perfect for people like me who like to dance and don’t like to tango.

If you’re in Buenos Aires make sure to check out a milonga, because what have you got to lose? If it’s not your thing, you can hit a boliche, aka club, or watch a show the next night and still be able to go home saying you’ve experienced something authentically Argentine.

Quinn K. is the Fall 2017 CEA MOJO Blogger in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is currently a Junior studying Professional Writing at Champlain College.

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