Buenos Aires always conjures up images of handsome couples dancing to melancholic tango tunes, but tango is only one part of the music scene here. If looking to explore more, read on for my discoveries and recommendations on music and dance here!
As the birthplace of tango, Buenos Aires has no shortage of places you can go to listen to or dance to tango music. Actual tango shows, which usually include dinner and a show, are more of a tourist attraction and I can’t speak much to these as they weren’t really on my to-do list, but here are some places I went to that more than satisfied my tango itch:
- Peñas: To enjoy an evening of live tango music, I would highly recommend checking out a peña. I was fortunate enough to meet a friend of a friend, Mira, who invited me to a peña she was performing at called El Vesuvio on Ave Corrientes 1181. Usually nothing more than an ordinary cafe/icecream shop, on Tuesday nights, it is transformed into a sort of open mic night for tango music. The front of the cafe is cleared for a band and anyone who wants to goes up and sings. I’m not sure how most peñas work, but the one at El Vesuvio is cozy, charming and intimate. Filled with locals, it is mostly attended by regulars who know each other and like to spend their Tuesday night singing or listening to Carlos Gardel’s songs over a bottle of Malbec. When I went, I felt like I was part of a big family – everyone sang along, encouraged those on stage with cries of ¡eso! and cheered on the bandoneon player as he churned out the wistful melodies. The night I went also happened to be the birthday of one of the regulars and the show stopped in the middle as we all sang “feliz cumple” while the birthday boy cut a cake (which we all enjoyed after). As the only table of foreigners, we got special attention and were warmly welcomed to the family of music lovers. Truly a great experience for those who want to experience something low-key and local.
- Villa Malcolm: Located on Ave Cordoba 5064, this is a great milonga that attracts people of all ages and levels (though more catered towards intermediate and advanced). It is a casual milonga with no formal dress code, and the music varies from traditional to neotango. As most nocturnal activities in BA, it doesn’t really get started until 11.30pm/12am but the party goes on till the wee hours of the morning on weekends and weeknights alike.
- Catedral: Another popular spot for dancing tango, Catedral (Sarmiento 4006) offers tango classes as well as milongas. The warehouse-like space is artsy and funky – with colored lights, framed paintings and high ceilings – creating a hauntingly stunning atmosphere. My only complaint is the floor, which is a little uneven, making dancing a little harder. Still, this is probably the prettiest space I’ve seen. Note – classes are taught in Spanish.
- La Viruta: Sporting the slogan “Entrás caminando… salís bailando” this was my favorite place for taking dance classes. Located in the basement of an Armenian cultural center (on Armenia 1366), La Viruta offers classes in salsa, tango and “rock and roll”. It’s one of the cheapest options and attracts many people. 1.5hrs of tango class + 1.5hrs of salsa class + 2hrs of open practice cost me 35 pesos (about $7). Classes are divided into 3 or 4 levels and taught in Spanish (though most instructors can translate in English if necessary). There is a bar and restaurant attached to the space and on weekends, medialunas and cafe are served at 4am after the milonga!
- La Glorieta: I didn’t get to go to this one but heard good things. The Glorieta is a free, outdoor milonga held at the Barrancas de Belgrano park. I think milongas are held every day starting at around 8pm (early for Argentines!), but the best nights to go are on the weekends.
- Salon Canning: Another important milonga located on Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, Salon Canning caters to the advanced crowd and promises good dancers. I don’t think I’m at this level yet and didn’t check it out first hand, but this is supposed to be one of the best milongas and attracts the masters!
- For a more local experience, check out Cochabamba 444 in San Telmo. There’s a class from 9-10.30pm on Fridays but most people show up just to dance around midnight.
- Azucar: A fun place to take classes or just dance. There are two locations – I went to the one on Cordoba 4175. Saturday nights are the best. Yummy margaritas 🙂
- La Viruta: See above. Salsa classes are taught by fun (and attractive) Cuban and Argentina instructors. Everyone does the same warmup to reggaeton, to get those muscles loose, and then the class is split into 4 levels. After some instruction comes my favorite part – the salsa rueda – where pairs dance in concentric circles, changing moves and partners according to the teacher’s calls. Tuesday night classes are followed by open salsa practice.
Cumbia and Reggaeton:
These are the two most popular types of music for the younger crowd and you will hear lots at boliches and house parties. Always a ton of fun to dance to. There are different types of Argentine cumbia such as the cuarteto and villera styles. My favorite cumbia song (due to the easy-to-sing-along-and-dance-to music) was Nene Malo’s “Como me gusta la noche” 🙂
Finally, the most popular music and dance outside the city of Buenos Aires and in the provinces is probably folklore. There are many different kinds and I learned one of them (the Chacarera) at school. You can also go to peñas for folklore music and dance. My Spanish teacher recommended Los Cardones on Jorge Luis Borges 2180.