The Friday night selection

IMGP7491crop ‘El viernes’ has always been my favourite night in Buenos Aires: the promise of the weekend ahead is I guess the same the world over and is ingrained into my psyche. The difference here is that Friday night boasts the widest choice of all night tango dancing on the planet and this gets my pulse racing. As I expand my knowledge of the available Milongas, I am presented with a dilemma – which shall I choose?

In the beginning it was easy, and I stuck to what I knew: Canning by midnight to a reserved table, followed by a 3.30am quick walk to La Viruta (free from this hour), where it was straightforward to find a seat somewhere given that a lot of people leave after the show. Things got tricky with this perfect plan in July. Big influx of tourists? More Argentines getting out to dance? I don’t know exactly why, but it became impossible to reserve a table at Canning. If I phoned as usual at 6pm I was told I had to turn up at 11 and hope. I was always seated by the organisers if I did get there early, but to my horror the place was like a sardine can – packed, with no prospect of a relaxing tanda or two. To add to the Canning chaos, the place has been in the process of an extensive overhaul for months. Areas have been cordoned off with boards, resulting in less space available for tables, the floor around ‘la pista’ has lacked a decent surface, the heating system has seemed less than functional – at times I was frozen. Over this period the late night transfer to La Viruta a few blocks away, did not bring joy either. It was a struggle to find a seat, and as I have written previously dancing became dangerous with the quantity of dancers on the rise and the quality of the dancing on the slide. It was time to investigate other options.

A few weeks ago Carlos and I headed to ‘La Baldosa’ at ‘Salon El Pial’ in Flores. Yes it is ‘mas lejo’ (further out of town), the taxi costs between 15 and 20 pesos depending on the route taken, but it is worth the trip. We reserve although I suspect there are some free tables if you want to chance it. Why do I like it? I think there  are less tourists here. There are groups of friends and couples enjoying their Friday night out. It is a typical Argentine ‘social scene’. The food is great. There is no written menu, but if you ask the waitress what is available you can choose from all the popular staples: steak, pasta, ‘flan casero con dulce de leche’ and the coffee is good too. Argentine flags hang from the ceiling around the glitter balls and the tango, milonga and vals tandas are made up of an excellent selection of music and interspersed with the occasional swing tanda (the Argentines love to strut their stuff to these, smiling and laughing to every step). There is usually a ‘show’ of high quality later in the night, and perhaps most important for me, there is space to dance without fear of ‘stiletto attacks’. These pictures were taken early so it does get busier than this but not so busy that I can’t close my eyes and  IMGP7487crop

surrender myself to my Argentine and ‘la musica’. The Milonga is named ‘La Baldosa’ (flagstone) after the type of dance floor underfoot. It is raised a step above the surrounding area and made of polished stone. A peculiarity of this floor is that it changes with the weather and in particular the level of humidity. I have noticed that at the start of the night it is smooth for pivoting but later it becomes slightly damp and less easy to dance on. However it is a magnificent ‘pista’ to view and to use when the conditions are favourable. I kind of like the fact that it seems to live and have changing characteristics. It’s a challenge. IMGP7489crop

I’m not sure how much  the ‘cabaceo’ is practiced here. Most people are in groups or couples and men don’t walk around looking for partners. There don’t seem to be areas designated for single dancers. But to go in a group, have dinner and dance among friends would be a great Friday night out. Certainly it is a romantic Milonga for me and my Argentine to enjoy. Next Friday on 21st September ‘La Baldosa’ will hold its ‘Primavera’ (Spring) Festivities. ‘Los Reyes del Tango’ will play live and the 2006 Campeones Metropolitanos Tango Salon, Pablo Roderiguez and Noelia Hurtado will perform. This could be a night not to miss.

The ‘Caseron Porteno Tango Map Guide’ lists twenty Milongas and Practicas for a Friday night. I know eight of the venues though not necessarily with what they have to offer on a Friday. I actually can’t imagine that there will come a day when I am familiar with every venue on every night of the week. It is a good feeling to know that even after six months I have countless discoveries still to make.

Meanwhile last Friday I was drawn back to my old stomping ground, with curiosity getting the better of me. Canning has been painted a slightly alarming shade of yellow or is it salmon(?), and is missing its usual range of interesting art and the music selection of Damian Boggio who is currently on tour in Italy. But there was just about space to dance at 2am when we arrived. Viruta was back to ‘just how I like it’ at 3.30am: tables available, medialunas to die for and a truly gorgeous range of music. We danced with renewed passion and I couldn’t help kissing my Argentine in the dark before the final tangos. It was the first time I had danced till 6am in a while and I have to say it felt amazing. There really is nothing like getting home in daylight and falling into bed with the notes of that last tango still resonating in your soul, and because it is Saturday, with nothing to do until Boca kick off at 6.30 (and this week they won 6-0!).

So next Friday what will I choose? Well I think I’m going mix my favourites of the moment: ‘Los Reyes del Tango’ at La Baldosa with dinner thrown in, until about 3am, followed by a return to Viruta, because for some reason, despite its crowds, its shabbiness and its slight sleaziness at times, I just can’t stay away from those medialunas and final dark tangos in the arms of an Argentine…

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