In the days of the confiterias bailables, the young milongueros had reserved tables in each one. No one sat at someone else’s table. For them, it was like having the same seat at the dinner table with family. If they didn’t show up for dinner, the seat remained empty.
I observed this seating hierarchy at Club Almagro during my first visit in 1996, where the milongueros viejos earned the right to their tables at the edge of the dance floor. And so did milongueras. I sat against the wall where I could see and learn the codes of the milonga.
There are milongas that are very popular with foreigners. Now that foreigners come all year, there are milongas with a regular rotation of new faces for the local dancers.
Those who are regulars today at milongas have reserved tables. They don’t have to call for a reservation. The policy at Lo de Celia is to call when one is not going to attend or arrive by 7:00.
Emilia has a reserved seat in the first row center on the left side in Lo de Celia on Wednesday, the only day she dances. She arrived one Wednesday as usual before 7:00pm, only to find that her reserved seat had been given to a foreigner who came for the first time. Emilia had a smile and acted calmly about the situation, but she was very upset. She is short, dark and older than the foreigner, a tall blond. Her partners had to look for her at another table to dance. Jimena decides where people sit in Lo de Celia. She doesn’t know the codes of the milongas and the importance of seating. The beautiful people get preferential seating in other milongas. The following Wednesday, Emilia sent a text message that she was coming, to ensure that her seat would be reserved for her.
The tall blond didn’t dance many tandas. She was only passing time at Lo de Celia before going down the street to Salon Leonesa. When she wasn’t dancing, she checking her cellphone. I noticed that one man invited her for four tandas in two hours, another for two tandas. I gave her until 8:30pm, but she stayed a little past 9:00 before going to another milonga where I imagine she dances every tanda. She doesn’t know that the men are selective at Lo de Celia. They prefer dancing with their regular partners each week than the newcomers who disappear.