Archive for the ‘Milongas’ Category

Homogenized and prepackaged tango

July 26, 2018

Today the dancing is all so homogenized and prepackaged for exhibition. You don’t see social dancers wearing dresses with high slits, but that’s standard for exhibition couples today. You don’t see social dancers standing six feet apart to begin a dance, but that’s how “salon” is marketed today. Most of what is done in today’s exhibitions is a far cry from actual social dancing in the milongas of BsAs. While the champions are doing their perfect choreographies, social tango is falling by the wayside. When the masses no longer dance socially, it will be the death of tango. Dance floors aren’t big enough for all the egos that want attention.


Originally posted to Dance Forum, Jan. 17, 2014


Keeping up with milonga changes

January 26, 2018

Twenty years ago, we consulted the one bi-monthly guide for the milonga schedule:  B.A. Tango – Buenos Aires Tango.  Tito Palumbo  discontinued publication in 2016 and changed to social media.  That’s the best and only way to keep up with the constant changes.

For example, I planned to meet two visitors at my regular place on Wednesday.  Then I learned that El Maipu wasn’t scheduled in Obelisco Tango as usual at 18 hs; it was temporarily relocated to La Nacional at 20 hs. I cancelled our plans.  If I hadn’t checked their page on Facebook, I wouldn’t have known.  The other source is

And then Milonga de Los Consagrados in Centro Region Leonesa was mysteriously cancelled a few weeks ago.  The club’s board may have decided not to rent the salon out for milongas; the Friday milonga moved to La Nacional.  Los Consagrados also relocated to La Nacional one week and then to Casa de Galicia. Both places seat fewer than the 350 capacity at Salon Leonesa.  Tomorrow it’s scheduled in La Nacional, where there was a problem with the air-conditioning a couple of weeks ago.

I feel sorry for all the dancers who don’t have access to the internet.  They show up at their regular milonga, many after an hour of travel by bus, only to find the doors closed.

This week is the craziest month ever in terms of venue changes.  I’ve been on FB for a little more than a year.  I relied on Hoy-Milonga for the schedule, but didn’t always bother to check it before walking out the door.  Power outages are common during the summer months.

Tonight, Milonga de Buenos Aires, usually held in Obelisco Tango is taking place in Lo de Celia, a half a block away.  Repairs and painting are being done in Obelisco Tango (which I hope include the ladies room).  Obelisco seats 350, and Lo de Celia 150.  That means seven organizers scramble to find another place so they don’t have to cancel their milongas and lose money and patrons.  The entrance door was just painted.

The milonga organizers are not only fighting with the city government to stay alive, they have to deal with situations beyond their control to stay open.  It’s not easy running a milonga these days in Buenos Aires.

Do yourself a favor when visiting the milongas: always check the milonga’s Facebook page and for confirmation it will be open when you arrive at the door.

Milonga shuffling

January 22, 2018

Barajando is the perfect name for the newest milonga in Buenos Aires.  I think it’s about time Jonatan Rojas organized a milonga.  He’s a familiar face in the milongas and a fine dancer.  There’s no better venue for Jony to start than where he was a waiter for so many years.

Barajando means shuffling a deck of cards.   The tango Barajando was recorded by Juan D’Arienzo with Alberto Echague.

Jony is the right person to revive Sundays at the corner of Humberto Primo and Entre Rios.  He’s had a full house so far and already has plans for a Wednesday milonga.  When an organizer knows how to take care of the dancers, they come.  He’s worked in the salon almost since Celia’s opening, so it’s only natural for him to hold his first milonga there.

I wish Jony much success as organizer.  He takes care of his customers.

What is a silent milonga?

January 20, 2018

There were silent milongas in Maui, Hawaii.  They are the idea of Murat Erdemsel

“We dance to the Music. Nobody speaks between tangos, tandas and around the dance floor.”

Here’s what Ingeborg Mussche wrote:

For more than a year now a friend and I have danced silently, no talking between songs, well 90% of the time. Yes, it was awkward at first and sometimes still feels a bit awkward, but now mostly it seems normal and more comfortable.

Tonight, for the first time I especially realized how lovely this. I became distinctly aware of relaxing into the music, our embrace, my/our breathing, and the enjoyment of our moving together and listening together. Also, the dance felt more relaxed and not rushed. My mind was not thinking what I might say between songs. I was just enjoying, just present in the moment. We chatted briefly afterwards and both felt it had been a lovelier tanda than we typically experience.

I hope many more have the opportunity to enjoy this during their tandas, but be aware it may take a long time before you realize that sensation. Will it happen again? I hope so.

Of course.  People don’t know what they’re missing without silence.  The music of a tanda continues for about 12 minutes.  The few seconds from the end of one tango to start of another doesn’t allow for conversation.  What is so important that it can’t wait until after the milonga?

I wrote about this topic here and here.

There is no comparison

January 10, 2018

I danced for the first time with Jose Mario about two months ago in El Maipu.  I remember how much I enjoyed a tanda with him.  I was hoping to catch his attention yesterday in Nuevo Chique.  There were only a few dancers left at 22 hs.  I was about to call it a night and change my shoes.  Then Jose Mario caught my eye and invited me for the Pugliese tanda that began with Recuerdos.  I accepted even though I don’t usually dance the Pugliese tanda.

From the second I entered his embrace, I surrendered to the music and closed my eyes.  There were no more than five couples on the floor.  I rarely close my eyes while dancing, but I let it happen naturally.  It was magical.  It was feeling, not steps.  We moved together in harmony like we’ve danced together for years.

I had danced earlier with men from Germany, Australia, and England, including a very young Argentine who has learned for two years.

The German tried to get my attention from the other side of the room, but I ignored him because he is too tall for me.  He approached my table, and I accepted.  It was the Biaggi tanda.  He started like a racehorse out of the gate with long steps.  I said, slow down.  He was dancing for himself, not for me. Later he commented, “the music has energy so you have to put energy into the dance.”  This wasn’t his first visit to Buenos Aires.  I couldn’t feel the lead from his upper body.  I had to concentrate on his steps and try to follow.  A few times I didn’t follow along because there was no lead.  He didn’t notice.  He was dancing for himself.

The Australian and I danced together at the same milonga a day after his arrival.  He invited me for the Rodriguez tanda yesterday.  [I haven’t heard this orquesta in a very long time. Thanks to Daniel Borelli, who I consider the best DJ in Buenos Aires, for including it yesterday.]  He’s here for a month to dance and take classes — two privates and eight group classes each week.  He said he’s here to learn the milonguero style.  I offered free private sessions, but he has a full agenda. It’s no wonder that he’s still thinking tango, not feeling it.

Foreigners are in a hurry; the milongueros take their time.  Foreigners focus on the steps; the milongueros focus on the woman in their embrace.  There is no comparison.  One is exercise, the other is a feeling.  If I need exercise, I go for a walk or practice Pilates.  When a man shares what he feels in the music, I melt.  And I did last night with Jose Mario.

Overcharging tourists is nothing new

September 21, 2017

The cost of admission to milongas increases once or twice a year without fail.  About twelve years ago, there was one milonga charging a higher entrada to foreign visitors than local dancers.  That policy didn’t help the bottom line and word got around.  It’s widely known that teachers don’t pay an entrada, supposedly because they bring their students, which most do not.  It’s only logical that the milongueros viejos who are the best dancers in Buenos Aires gain entrance without charge wherever they go.  Foreign female visitors come to Buenos Aires specifically to dance with the milongueros.

I thought that this policy of overcharging tourists at the milongas wasn’t around anymore until a friend mentioned that she was told the entrada was 235 pesos.  She had been away from the city for several weeks, and knew that 100 to 235 was an outrageous increase.  The cashier knows who the locals are and who the foreign visitors are.  My friend is a foreigner, living many years Buenos Aires.  She wasn’t about to pay 235 pesos, and ended up paying the general entrada of 120 pesos when she questioned the cashier.

What can you do if you are a newcomer or a returning visitor to the milongas in Buenos Aires?

  • write the organizer asking the price of the entrada when you make a reservation.  All milongas have FB.
  • ask me or your friends about the entrada at various milongas
  • wait to see how much others in line pay, and then pay the same.
  • have bills for the exact amount ready to pay the entrada (like a regular) without asking the cashier.  Very few milongas put a sign on the desk announcing the general entrada.

This same cashier, who was unsuccessful in overcharging my friend, quietly avoided giving me change one night when others distracted my attention.  We don’t know if the organizers are aware of the situation.  It’s not about the money, when the entradas are less in Buenos Aires than in many countries.  It’s the discriminatory policy charging unaware foreigners more than the local dancers and then pocketing the extra cash.

Name that tune

July 30, 2017

I hadn’t been to Club Gricel since October and was pleasantly surprised to see a projection screen on the wall on Thursday night at La Cachilla.  There’s no more guessing which orquesta or tune you’re dancing to — the information is on the screen.  What a great idea for those who wants to learn more about tango.  The deejay uses a special software program that automatically displays the name of the orquesta, the title of the tune, and its composer.

The way it was

July 20, 2017

I had a strong feeling that my days at this milonga were numbered after 16 years, so I wanted to remember things as they were in the end with photos.  The family members know me with a camera in hand.

I wanted to capture the way it was in my second home before I was no longer welcome.  Dancers talk about the milongas and word gets around.  New management was making changes, and dancers were not happy.  I listened to the complaints, but I am the only who writes about them. Several years ago I wrote on an open forum about a milonga organizer who was dancing at her milonga and kept me waiting ten minutes for a table.  Most organizers know their job is taking care of dancers, but she didn’t.  She heard about my post and told me I wasn’t welcome.  I was banned from one milonga, and I was ready for number two.

I know that there are many who are willing to remain silent, grit their teeth, and continue attending–all for tango.  That wasn’t the case for me.  I wrote about what was happening to my milonga home.  My comments reached the eyes of the new owners, as I knew they would.  One day I was personally escorted out the door after my entrada was returned. I went around the corner to Obelisco Tango which hosts milongas every day of the week, with many familiar faces from this milonga.

We all had our regular tables where we were comfortable.  These men sat together every Sunday.  There are no reserved seats anymore.

This milonga was different; it was like family when Celia was here. Everyone who went on Sundays felt the same.  You can see it in the photos.

Celia created a place for dancing.  She didn’t hire orquestas or professionals to perform, because she knew that her people came to dance.  When attendance was low, she offered free or reduced admission the first hour to fill the salon — and it worked.  She always charged less than other milongas.  It made sense to charge less than to close the doors.

The employees were there to do their jobs and take care of us.  And they always did it with a smile and courtesy.  They enjoyed working for Celia.

The staff worked together like a happy family.

It was nice being greeted by name at the door as you welcome a friend to your home.  That’s why this milonga was a home for so many of us.  It has changed over the past year now that Celia is gone.

Now there is only one milonga hosted by the owners.  Wednesday closed months ago.  Saturday has another organizer for almost a year.  Sunday is holding on for its life.  Alberto Frezza and Edit Lopez arranged to rent the salon on Friday nights. After eight weeks, they had built a regular following and had a viable milonga.  Then the owners demanded 25% more rent for the salon which they refused to pay.  They are looking for another venue.  The Friday milonga is now a pena folklorico starting July 21.

These are other stories I heard just this week through the tango grapevine.  If you want a tiny bucket of ice for your drink, you have to pay for it.  Ice!  The man who asked why was told if he didn’t like it, he could go elsewhere by the owner.  What’s next? Paying for napkins?  The raffle for a bottle of champagne is now only a glass of champagne.  I laughed hysterically when a friend told me this one yesterday.

I saw a neighbor the other day who still goes there on Sunday.  He said there are very few attending, but “it’s my home, so I go.”  The owners don’t get it.  You don’t just open the doors, expect people to show up, hand you their money and go home happy.  Celia took care of her dancers.  How long can a milonga survive with 40 in a salon that holds 150?




My trifecta

July 17, 2017

A milonguera friend once told me that the milonga is a mystery; you never know with whom you will dance.

I don’t want or need to dance every tanda at a milonga.  Jorge knows that about me.  We’ve danced regularly since Irma passed.  It’s a privilege dancing with one of the very best milongueros of Buenos Aires.  He has spoiled me.

Today, we danced Biaggi tangos.  Later, when a vals tanda began, I was longing to dance with him.  Since he’s at the next table, I heard him say, Pichi.  Lucky me!   And last, but not least, we danced Canaro milongas.

I told him during the last tanda that this was the first time we danced tango, vals, and milonga in one evening.  I was completely satisfied after a trifecta with Jorge and went home at 9:00pm.

This is not fake news

July 13, 2017

The milongas of Buenos Aires are in jeopardy.

  1. Cancellations are frequent.  The number of milongas is declining steadily.
  2. The closure of Confiteria Ideal in March 2016 is one example when seven milongas closed, and only one of those organizers moved to a new venue.  Salon Canning (newly remodeled in 2016) and Obelisco Tango host milongas seven days a week.
  3. Some organizers are operating during the winter months at a loss, yet they stay open for their regular customers.
  4. The increase in the entrada for milongas is necessary to cover costs, and those on a fixed retirement income attend less often.
  5. There are more practicas than in recent years which aren’t required to pay for music licensing fees, wait staff, etc.  Needless to say, serious dancers don’t attend practicas where the codes are non-existent.
  6. A milonguera said to me last night: “There are only five milongas.”