Dancing Tango Outdoors in Buenos Aires

January 5, 2010

In Buenos Aires, tango social dancing is mostly indoors in dance salons and community centers. However, there are 3 tango dance venues in Buenos Aires where outdoor tango social dancing takes place on a regular basis – Plaza Dorrego, La Glorieta, and La Calesita. Plaza Dorrego and La Glorieta are open for dancing all year around, weather permitting; La Calesita is open only in the summer. These are milongas as defined by the music played (Ref), but otherwise deviate from the traditional milonga setting to various degrees.

La Calesita (Ref1) (Ref2) (Photo1) (Photo2)

La Calesita is held Saturday nights on the grounds of a sports club in Nuñez, in the northern part of the city of Buenos Aires. Of the three outdoor milongas, La Calesita has the most traditional environment, with tables and chairs set up around a stone dance floor with a sculpture in the middle; dancers seat themselves but there are no specific sections for men, women, and couples. There are no waiters, but food and drinks are available at the bar. There is an admission charge.

La Glorieta (Ref1) (Ref2) (Photo1) (Photo2) (Video1) (Video2) (Video3)

La Glorieta is held Thursday through Sunday evenings in a circular shaped covered terrace with a decorative stone floor located in a park (Barrancas de Belgrano) in the barrio of Belgano in the northern part of the city of Buenos Aires. There is no formal seating, although there are sometimes portable chairs for people to sit on; most people will be standing or leaning against the outer railing of the terrace. There is no food or beverage service and no admission charge.

Plaza Dorrego (Photo1) (Photo2) (Video)

The milonga at Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo is held Sunday evenings at the site of the flea market that is held during the day or, specifically, where El Indio gives his tango demonstrations. There is a stone surface for dancing and some short stone walls on which people sit; there may also be some tables and chairs for people to sit, but these appear to be associated with the restaurants that border the plaza, from which people can obtain food and beverages. There is no admission charge.

Of these three outdoor milongas, La Calesita has attendance from people who come specifically for the milonga. La Glorieta, in a public park, will have some transient traffic as well. Plaza Dorrego is in the middle of a business zone popular with tourists, so there are many transient passers-by. Thus, even among dancers, Plaza Dorrego has a high tourist representation. La Glorieta also attracts some tourists who travel there specifically to attend the milonga. La Calesita attracts the least number of tourists. All three milongas have a range of ages, but La Glorieta is particularly popular among young people. La Glorieta is also a popular place for impromptu tango dancing among young people.

All three milongas have predominantly classic tango music arranged in tandas with cortinas, as well as an occasional tanda of rock or salsa. The music at La Glorieta tends to be more modern, with an occasional tanda of electrotango. At all 3 outdoor milongas, there is variation in styles of dancing, from traditional ‘close embrace’ tango de salon to various styles where the embrace is opened, although dancing tango in an opened embrace is generally in the minority. There is also a wide range of dancing skills. In all three outdoor milongas, due to the lack of identified seating sections for men, women, and couples, the cabeceo is generally absent as a means of inviting someone to dance.

In addition to outdoor milongas, each year the government of Buenos Aires sponsors several free tango street festivals with live music for dancing (Ref1) (Ref2). These events are a popular tourist attraction and attract many non-dancing spectators. These are casual affairs and lack the structure and codigos of milongas and bailes held regularly throughout the year. The quality and style of dancing are highly variable. These events usually are not attended by milongueros.

These outdoor tango social dance events represent a significant departure from the characteristics of traditional milongas in Buenos Aires (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics).