The milongas of Buenos Aires (Part 1)

“Las milongas de Buenos Aires”

The plane touched down in Buenos Aires at 5pm and by 11pm I was on the dancefloor. It sounds extreme but I was so tired a few more hours would have made no difference and besides, I was so excited to be here after a two year absence.

Sueño Porteño, at Centro Region Leonesa

The first milonga was easy, Sueño Porteño, I had been to this milonga before except that it’s now held at another venue (also a venue I’d known from a different milonga). There is an impressive staircase leading up to the first floor, a thick red curtain prevents me from peeking inside, there’s a couple just ahead of me who are paying the entrance fee of $150 pesos (approx. AUD $5). They turn around and say ‘What are you doing here?’ – hilarious, the first people I bump into are Aussies from Sydney, and once inside I find another two Aussies.

I wait for the organiser to sit me down, somewhere half way down the rectangular shaped hall, at a table with ladies only. This room is beautiful, very high ceilings, lovely wooden floor, the DJ is up on the stage and has a screen with the name of the orchestra playing, there is table service so you can order drinks and snacks. Julia Doynel, the organiser, is a real character, she gets on the microphone after every second tanda, she presents both a ladies tanda (women invite a man to dance and in turn give them a chocolate) and a gents tanda (men invite women to dance and in turn give them a single long stem rose).

The music wasn’t arranged in the typical format (TTVTTM, a series of tandas in the following order: tango, tango, vals, tango, tango, milonga). In fact, there were many tandas of vals and only one of milonga. Interestingly, there were also tandas of rock and roll, salsa, and even foxtrot. Oh, and did I mention it was packed?

I had an amazing evening, I danced every tanda except for one, the majority of the leaders were locals, they use cabeceo, and most of the crowd was middle aged and upwards.

Video: Chacarera at 1.15am.

 

Lujos, at El Beso

For the second milonga, I followed a Sydney tanguero’s recommendation and I headed to Lujos at El Beso. Once again I have been to this venue before, it’s a much smaller space, it looks a lot more like a nightclub, with a bar area, there are columns within the floor space, the DJ box is way up high, so high I almost didn’t see him. This venue was packed, dancing was reduced to not even a one metre radius, I would say it was closer to just the one tile, this type of dancing is very different, movements are tiny, every step is reduced and minimised.

Here the demographic was similar to the previous night, older, mainly local dancers, a few tourists but not too many, girls all seated along two sides of the floor, men along the other two sides as well as sprawled across the bar area. Cabeceo from all the way across the room. I did see one instance of confusion where two ladies stood up at the same time, which just reminds me why I never ever stand up until I am 100% sure the cabeceo is for me. Phew!

Video: Chacarera towards the end of the night.

 

Yira Yira, at La Nacional

Friday night was tricky, aside from the usual 20 milongas or so being held every night, Friday was particularly difficult because there were two good orchestras playing (Romantica Milonguera at La Viruta, and Color Tango at Yira Yira), there was also DJ Vivi La Falce at La Milonga de Buenos Aires whom I’d been wanting to check out for some time. In the end I went to Yira Yira and have no regrets. What a night! Where do I start?

The room: This hall is large but it’s long and narrow, with small tables along the length of both sides of the hall, a stage at one end with group tables, and a bar with group tables at the other end. The host took a while to find seats for everyone waiting to get in, she asked if I had a reservation, I said no, and she found me a fabulous spot, couldn’t be happier. It wasn’t right on the dance floor but I had a good view and could easily cabeceo from my spot. A bar service and snacks (such as empanadas) is available.

The crowd: This crowd was very mixed, about 50% young (early 20’s, very hip tangueros), the rest were middle aged to much older, and too many tourists for my linking. I’m not a snob and clearly I’m a tourist too but I feel that if I’m coming all the way to Buenos Aires I definitely prefer to dance with the local milongueros and for the most part I succeeded, with the exception of a couple of dances.

The DJ and lighting: The music was traditional, the cortinas were a lot of fun with lively music. The lighting was relatively bright during the tandas, but when the cortinas started the large hall lights were dimmed and bright colourful lights flashed much like in a night club, there was definitely a fun/ party atmosphere here.

Taxi dancers: I spotted at least two male taxi dancers. I still don’t understand this concept, I know some women want to be assured dances so they pay a dancer to dance with them all night but everyone knows that they are with a taxi dancer – what is the merit in that, and in many ways are they not degrading themselves? Personally I would prefer to take a chance on not being asked than have to pay someone. More on this in a separate blog.

The dancing: The level of dancing was great, although not as high as the previous nights’ milongas. I did dance with a beginner and will discuss this experience in a separate blog.

The floor: It was really crowded with two lines of dance, the outer circle and a very tight long inner circle. Tiny tiny dancing again, on the spot movements. We are spoiled for space in Sydney. One Italian dancer I was dancing with was not so subtly elbowed/ pushed as he wasn’t keeping to his lane, and when the music stopped he was verbally reminded that he needs to stay within his lane – ouch!

The orchestra: Color Tango came on quite late, at 1am and played for just over an hour. No one danced to the first song (please refer to my last blog about codes).

And finally a little disclaimer. This blog is not intended to offend, it’s simply my views and my experiences of events.

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