The average Argentinean does not dance tango so do not expect to see tango regularly danced in the bars and clubs around the city. In fact tango is possibly more popular today with the many tourists who flock to the city specifically for this purpose. This has made tango big business. Foreign tango dancers can expect to pay around 300 pesos (US$80) for an hour long private lesson with a good teacher.
Tango is somewhat of an underground scene in Buenos Aires and can be difficult for the average tourist to find although Lonely Planet has been promoting the scene for a while now listing some of the more popular milongas (tango dances). If you are a tourist simply wanting to experience the real tango and also avoid the prices of the choreographed tango shows then a milonga is the place to go.
Tango is traditionally danced free style - that is each move is not choreographed. It is led by the man and it is the woman's role to follow. It is a dance that is both very masculine and very feminine at the same time with specific roles for each gender. For this reason tango also perhaps gives a good insight into the culture of Argentina.
Milongas range from traditional tango where everyone sits at specific tables and men ask the women to dance. In the traditional venues this is done with a cabeceo. This is where the man catches the eye of the woman he wants to dance with. If she does not look away it is interpreted as consent and he moves across the tango hall to lead her to the dance floor. There are also more relaxed milonga venues where people smoke, eat and freely chat while waiting to dance.
Dance styles can also range dramatically from modern tango with more casual dress codes and electronic music to match to the more traditional old school tango where men and women dress up and embrace each other closely to dance in a more formal manner. No matter what the style when it comes to tango it is all about the connection dancers experience with each other for that magical moment when they seem to move together as one person across the dance floor.
Milongas are held at many venues around the city and traditionally start late - after 11pm. Expect to pay around 20 pesos entry fee. Some of these venues do not hold milongas every night so it is advisable to check before you arrive as schedules can change.
Location: Scalabrini Ortiz 1331. A popular milonga with both locals and tourists. Many dancers to watch and often a demonstration by professional dancers as well.
Club Villa Malcolm
Location: Cordoba 5064. A relaxed milonga in a hall combined with a restaurant/pub. A tango lesson is often held first and included in the entry price if you want to have a go.
Location: 416 Riobamba. Depending on the night you go this is a more traditional milonga. Expect to see much cabeceo.
Location: Armenia 1336. A relaxed fun venue that is a true bargain as you get as many dance classes that are being held that night with your entry fee including rock n roll, salsa and tango.
Location: San Juan 3330. Good for those who don't want to stay out late as this milonga starts at 7pm.