La milonguera inglesa

Rotation of IMGP6747 If one definition of a milonguera is a woman who likes to attend Milongas, and another is a woman whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango, then these days… soy milonguera! In the past seven days I have attended ten night time Milongas in Buenos Aires. This is a record for me. I have not had a single night off. There are three reasons why my tango life has suddenly become so hectic:

  1. It is time to explore new Milongas, but I don’t want to give up my favourites.
  2. It is the low season and a great time to get to know the people who run the Milongas in my favoured places.
  3. Gabriella is leaving Buenos Aires to return to America in a few weeks and we don’t want to miss a minute of dance time.

By now you all know that the Milongas I head to most often are Canning and La Viruta. Viruta is the way I love to end the night, or rather, start the day – great music played loud, an edgy sensual atmosphere, cafe con leche y medialunas, a kiss in the dark, La Cumparsita under bright lights. Canning feels like family now: the walk down the long corridor towards the tango music, a reserved table, a warm welcome, no shortage of dances, live orchestras, a late tanda danced with the talented and famous DJ, Damian Boggio. I visit Viruta up to four times a week and Canning, three. That’s seven Milongas without branching out at all…

But routine is not the way I like to live. I am an adventurer. I have to explore. Entonces, here is the lowdown on the new venues I danced at this week:

  • El Martes – From about ten till midnight, the young, hip and trendy head to Practica X. Last Tuesday I joined them for the first time. The venue fascinated me. I walked into a modern office reception which looked nothing like a tango venue. I paid my entrance fee of $4 pesos, turned left and was unexpectedly in an amazing space with a chequered black and white floor. I sat with my friends – and took pictures. I don’t really know this crowd and next time I will take a partner. Nobody needed or wanted to dance with me. However I was comforted by the fact that not everybody on the dance floor was expert in tango; people of all abilities were on show. Practica X  is a practica and not a Milonga. Random dances are far less likely than in the Milongas, unless you are young and delicious, which I am not!
  • El Martes y el Domingo – From around midnight, Porteno y Bailarin gets going. And on Tuesday it got going for me. I got chatting to the organiser, Carlos Stasi. He speaks perfect English and since he is a great fan of Prime Suspect and Helen Mirren, we have much in common… He was even kind enough to invite me to dance a tango. I realised how lucky I am to be here in the low season, making connections with interesting people. I learned that Porteño y Bailarin are holding a celebration on 1st July, for the great Carlos Gavito who died two years ago. His family will be there and so will I. My friend Carlos took lessons from Gavito, as did Carlos Stasi. Slowly I am learning of the tango maestros who are honoured and loved, whether alive or dead, in this great city. And to add to my happy experience in Porteño y Bailarin, in between tangos with a milonguero, I was delighted when the conversation, in castellano, went something like this:

El: I can’t believe there are so many foreigners here tonight. I don’t really like it.

Yo: (smiling smugly to myself) I’m English.

El: (embarrassed) Oh sorry, I thought you were porteña, you dance like a porteña. You look like a porteña. You speak castellano…

Yo: (graciously and stunned) Thank you.

(Si, soy porteña ahora!)

  • El Sabado – Parakultural Milonga in San Telmo starts around 12.30am on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I’ve been meaning to go for weeks because Damian Boggio, who organises the music at Canning, also organises this Milonga. What a romantic place it is. I went with Carlos, which was a good thing because it was very quiet. It was also extremely cold and we danced in our coats! But, I loved the venue. It had almost a spooky feel. If Canning is formal, then this is definitely informal. There is a stage where orchestras play. The music is beautiful. The cortados are perfect. I will be taking all my friends back there next Saturday. Apparently in one month this and all the other Milongas in the city will be packed with tourists. I look forward to seeing the contrast in the high season… or do I? There is something precious about dancing Vals in the semi darkness, with someone special, with all the space in the world at my feet.

Last night at Canning, by 4.15am there were probably about twenty people left, including the staff. For one tanda at least Carlos and I danced alone on the beautiful wooden pista. Gabriella videoed us but sadly the video is too large to upload so I can’t share it yet. When I watch the video I see that my feet are tired from 5 hours dancing, But I also see myself relaxing, playing, exploring. I see my passion.  I don’t care if I look great or don’t look great, I only care that I dance. To be honest guys, this is just about as good as it gets…

See pictures of my week of Milongas in Buenos Aires

Find out more about Damian Boggio, Tango DJ, Buenos Aires


7 Responses

  1. hi baby, wrong statement: until you follow your dreams (as you do) you will be forever young……..
    loads of love, as ever


  2. You look radiant. Any every inch milonguera! One year on…wow, how far you have come!
    Your photos are so atmospheric – I’m living it too! x

  3. Wow
    8 days without hearing from you – I might have guessed it was the milongas!

    You’re whetting my appetite to visit your life out there but I don’t know if I’ve got the stamina or will be able to converse fluently enough.

    Querida Sally
    Soy muy contenta que vives el sueno.

  4. The first definition of milonguera you stated is correct, but I think the second one “…whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango…” is defined as a tanguera.

    Well, that’s what I have heard. For myself, I consider myself more of a tanguero rather than a milonguero.

    Of course, I could be wrong. 🙂

  5. Hmmm I dunno. I think “milonguero/a” is even deeper than that. I get a little sensitive about that word being used too loosely… it’s also something that’s in one’s soul, something connected with what I call “the ghost”… (check out my blog for my various posts on “the ghost”… you are a fabulous writer so I really hope you’d enjoy.. 🙂 ) According to my novio, it can also be someone who grew up in the milongas, and learned to dance in the milongas. I’ve also heard it refer to those who dance a particular “style” of tango (which has more connection than it does ganchos, etc…) I guess it depends on who you ask. 🙂
    Ok, no tango tonight so I’ll keep catching up on your blog (as I’ve only just discovered it and have a lot of reading to do)…
    Very nice writing!

  6. Sally,

    I agree with Tina that milonguera is more than someone who likes to dance tango. Take for example, Amanda Lucero who will be dancing an exhibition this Friday with Beto Ayala at Salon Canning. She learned to sing tangos as a little girl. She went to neighborhood clubs from the age of 12 to observe and later to dance with the boys. She learned to dance by dancing–not in classes, and she can dance well with anyone. If you are in Canning to see her, go to her table and talk with her. She can tell what it means to be a milonguera.


  7. Hi Janis

    Yeah, well I think I wrote this post in June 2007. I’d been here 3 months!
    I agree with you now and with anyone else who left me kind hints back then too.
    I’ve learned quite a bit since, as I’m sure you can imagine. Still am learning, of course…

    Certainly, I completely understand and respect the difference between the likes of me, and those who have grown up in tango. I always did really, just got a bit over enthusiastic now and again as I enjoyed the early stages of my adventure. Not too much harm done I think.

    Maybe I should take these old posts down to avoid appearing a complete idiot, but then again that was part of my journey and other people coming here might learn from my occasional gaffs – so for now I leave them. I think most people who read me these days realise that I’ve changed a bit. Hope so, anyway.

    It’s funny you mention that exhibition. Haven’t been out late for weeks but I’ll probably be there if I can stay awake. Beto mentioned it to me a few weeks ago. It will indeed be a joy to watch them both.

    I will try and add these comments to my live blog, if I can work it out – this one isn’t getting updated anymore. If you do decide to comment on any other back posts it’d be great if you could do it on the live blog, as more people read that one now – all the same posts are there:



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