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Dancing Tango In Buenos Aires Vs. Abroad

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

milonga in buenos aires

Most tango dancers living outside of Argentina dream of dancing in Buenos Aires. If you’re finally thinking about pulling the trigger, it’s good to know what’s different about dancing in Buenos Aires versus what you’re used to back at home. This will help you have realistic expectations so you can make the most of your trip. Let’s get right to it.

1. Buenos Aires puts the “Social” in “Social Dancing”

Unlike in other countries where people go to milongas with hopes of dancing non-stop, the Porteños (People from Buenos Aires) have a slightly more relaxed approach. Of course they want to dance, but more often than not, the milonga is a gathering place for friends. Pretty much every milonga in Buenos Aires has some form of a bar and also serves food. In many milongas you reserve a table, and you’ll often see locals sharing a bottle of champagne and socializing more than you actually see them dancing. If you want to speed up those dance invitations, get socializing!

2. There are milongas of all shapes and sizes

With 15-30 milongas to choose from every night of the week, Buenos Aires certainly offers tango in every possible flavor. In most other cities you’re lucky if there are 3 milongas to choose from per night, or per month if you live in a small town. Every milonga in Buenos Aires has a unique vibe that differs in age range, dress code, style of dancing, friendliness level, and skill level. Whatever your vibe is, Buenos Aires has a milonga for you. If you’re short on time, start asking for recommendations to avoid spending your entire vacation in milongas that don’t feel right for you.

3. On a crowded dance floor, there’s a different strategy

When the dance floor is crowded, experienced dancers in Buenos Aires use continuous turns to keep the dancing interesting, without taking up too much space. In other countries, many people resort to linear and less fluid movements such as rock-steps, ocho cortados, and half-turns, which actually end up taking up more space than the Porteño strategy. There are a variety of techniques that both followers and leaders can implement to make continuous turns tight, comfortable, and dynamic. If you want to dance like a Porteño when the dance floor gets tight, start polishing your turns!

4. Connection trumps level any day

In many countries outside of Argentina, dancers tend to be preoccupied with inviting partners who are of a good level. It’s almost as though a “good level” automatically means you will have a good dance. In Buenos Aires, while level certainly plays a factor in getting invited, most dancers look for other signs to determine whether or not you’ll have a nice connection. It could be something as simple as your smile, laugh, or the energy you give off. To play the partner hunting game in Buenos Aires means gravitating towards people with whom you think you’d have a nice connection, regardless of level.

5. It’s a late-night scene

While 1:00am might be considered “late” in other countries, in Buenos Aires, the party is just getting started. Many milongas in Buenos Aires start around 11:00pm, with performances and live music starting around 1:00 or 2:00am. And if you are looking for those “high level” partners to dance with, they usually don’t show up until 2:00am. That’s not to say there are no milongas that start earlier, however you have to know which ones are worth attending. If you want to enjoy the best of what Buenos Aires has to offer, start shifting your sleep schedule!

I could go on with more differences and tips but I hope this gives you some idea of what to expect when planning your tango vacation in Buenos Aires. If you’re looking to make the most of your trip, join one of my upcoming Buenos Aires retreats, designed to give you everything you need to navigate the BA tango scene like a local.

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