There aren’t many of us out there who can do the fandango or dance like Billy Elliot but dancing is currently ‘in’ in a big way. Shows like Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance are among the most popular on TV, and people have started to take up dancing in huge numbers.
One such dance currently experiencing a renaissance is Tango Argentino.
Tango is Argentina’s most famous dance and is currently enjoying a massive revival throughout South America, the US and much of Western Europe. Such has been the strength of this revival that UNESCO declared it part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” last year.
With young and old alike lacing up their dance shoes to give the Tango a try, we’ve produced a list of the top 5 Milongas and the three best places to catch a Tango show in Buenos Aires, where the history of Tango can still be felt today, both amongst the locals and the steady stream of tourists heading to the Tango capital to take advantage of the numerous Milonga clubs and cheap Buenos Aires youth hostels, such as our recent Hostel Award winning property the Art Factory.
The best Milongas in Buenos Aires
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La Viruta is one of the largest and most well-known of the Milongas in Buenos Aires, and, having provided lessons, dance and shows since 1994, is also amongst the oldest.
It’s pretty big inside and has a large dance floor which is great for those beginners amongst you that feel you might benefit from a little bit of room for maneuver!
It isn’t a great place for singles as most people tend to come with partners and are experienced dancers. You may be forced to take a seat for some time in one of the plastic Garden-Chairs that surround the dance floor while you wait for someone who is prepared to dance with you.
Fortunately, if you are single or too much of a novice, La Viruta is also a good place to come just to watch the salsa. It serves good, tasty food without the frills and if you turn up on a night when a special event is on you will have the opportunity to take in some really good shows or concerts. If you decide to go when a show is on, bear in mind that you will have to order a table in advance to guarantee entry.
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La Catedral is a great place to experience the Tango and is based in the extremely informal setting of a scruffy warehouse. The atmosphere is fantastic and it often features some of the best performers on the Tango circuit.
This is not a place for beginners; the dancers at La Catedral know what they are doing and if you are under 30, without a partner and a weak or novice Tango dancer you won’t get the opportunity to dance.
Even if you do come with a partner, it is ill-advised to take part in the Milonga unless you’re fairly confident with what you’re doing. La Catedral, like all Milonga venues, takes the Milonga very seriously. It is frowned upon if you don’t follow the rules and in extreme cases you will be chucked off the dance floor!
However it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get an opportunity to dance as you will get an opportunity to watch a lot of stars of the Elite Tango-Nuevo scene do their thing.
If you are a beginner and desperately want to give it a go, La Cateral does do some excellent classes that teach you the basics of Tango step by step.
If you do plan to take to the dance floor at La Catedral, don’t wear new shoes as the wooden floor is pretty torn up. It is also recommended to arrive by taxi, as the surroundings aren’t as secure as they might be.
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Founded in 1912 by Manuel Rosendo Fernández, this is a Tango institution and a must see site in Buenos Aires even if Tango isn’t your thing.
It is honored by the most famous milongueros (Tango dancers) and features the best Tango teachers in the world. Hundreds of celebrities have danced the Tango at Confiteria Ideal from presidents and state officials to artists, writers and painters and it has also featured as a set in several films.
Milongas take place on several days of the week and the ‘All Tango’ promotion on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays featuring dinner, a show, Tango dance, Tango orchestra and exhibition is one of the great Tango experiences.
You can also take lessons with some of the best teachers in the world any day of the week, however these are not cheap and it is probably best to save a trip to Confiteria Ideal to experience a show.
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Run by the established Tango names of Augusta Balizano, Roxana Gargano and Edgardo Gargano, La Marshall is a quiet, fancy Milonga predominantly for the gay community; however heterosexual couples are also welcome.
La Marsháll is much more open than many of the Milongas in town is a place where you will feel comfortable and able to express your emotions freely even if not that great at the Tango.
Held on Wednesdays, it begins with a group lesson, then goes on to a show and Milonga at Plaza Bohemia.
The La Marshall group also runs gay Tango lessons on Sunday evenings at the gay hotel El Lugar Gay in San Telmo.
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Loca Milonga is a fairly new but very popular place to dance Tango in Palermo Hollywood, one of the hippest neighborhoods in town. This means that you can combine trying the Tango with going for a drink or something to eat in one of the numerous bars and restaurants in the area.
Organized by Demian Fontenla, Loca Milonga it is a great place to go as a beginner or someone who isn’t confident in their Tango ability as it is much less formal than many of the others and predominantly a young crowd.
The dance floor is quite big in size and rarely packed giving you the lee-way of bit of extra room to move as you attempt the pasadoble.
There is usually a demonstration by one of the more experienced couples during the course of the evening and the music changes over the course of the evening allowing you to experiment with different types of Tango.
It’s based in an arty restaurant/bar called Chalmers Club and features a full menu during the Milonga until 11 pm when drinks only are available.
If you’re an inexperienced Tango dancer and want to take part in a Milonga rather than just watch then Loca Milonga, alongside La Marsháll, is probably the best place to go.
The best Tango shows in Buenos Aires
Esquina Carlos Gardel
For those of you unsure of the difference between a Milonga and a Tango show, a Tango show is similar in format to the ‘All Tango’ night at Confiteria without the Milonga element. You sit down, have dinner and watch the professionals do their thing.
Performances vary from solo couples to as many 12 or 14 performers in a single number. There is an orchestra above the stage and the show also features live singing by one male and one female singer.
Tickets aren’t cheap but there is a range of seating options that caters for most budgets. The food is pricey for what you get and is not the best in town (you can get much better for a fraction of the prices) but you have to remember that you are paying for the atmosphere as much as anything.
The show doesn’t start until 22:30 pm so it’s best not to arrive any earlier than 21:00 pm, that way you won’t be waiting around for the show to start in a virtually empty theater! Another tip would be to wear cool clothing as it gets pretty hot inside the theater once it fills up to its 250 + capacity.
One of Boca Tango’s best features is that it takes place both inside and outside. Like Esquina Carlos Gardel it features dinner in a quiet and exclusive atmosphere and doesn’t come to cheap, but it is a unique experience.
The show starts with a thematic Tango walk through the streets of Conventillo accompanied by a saitette (one act farce) that recreates life as it used to be for immigrants in the city.
A cabaret from the ‘golden years’ follows, providing the setting for a magnificent, unique show featuring dancers, singers and orchestra performing live.
Again, like La Catedral, it is best to go to and from the event by taxi as the area is everything but safe at night.
Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo
Sundays on the plaza
In the nearby streets of San Telmo, you also get the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the professional dancers who regularly put on little shows for the crowds.
The one downside is that it is always busy around San Telmo and the el Indio market place as tourists and locals alike try and catch a glimpse in the very best in the business.