Buenos Aires Tango Tips
Clarry Smits is one of the top tango dancers and instructors in Vancouver, Canada. He also runs Tango a Media Luz, a popular Vancouver milonga that features Golden Age Buenos Aires tango every Friday night.
Clarry recently visited Buenos Aires and I asked him about his tango experience in “the Paris of South America”. He offered some wonderful Buenos Aires tango tips on milongas, tango schools, and other tango-related topics. Read them below.
What are your favorite Buenos Aires milongas?
My favorite milongas in Buenos Aires seem to differ every time I go there. It depends a lot on the visiting transient population at the time.
I like Niño Bien on Saturday night. A lot of the good dancers go there on a Saturday night. Friday night at Niño Bien is a posing night. A lot of well dressed beautiful ladies go there to see and be seen not necessarily to dance. It is a night for socializing. It was a puzzle to me at first until I was enlightened by a local Tanguera.
I love Sunderland. The floor always seems to move well there. The food is also very good and affordable. It is a popular haunt for a lot of the maestros. I enjoy watching them dance socially when they are not performing.
Confiteria Ideal is great for their afternoon milonga. The ambiance there is very comfortable. An older crowd. Sometimes they have live music.
Salon Canning is a must. There is always good energy. Many good dancers. Also a favorite haunt for the maestros. They also usually have a live band there which is a wonderful experience.
What are your least favorite milongas?
Every time I have been to Club Gricel it has been a zoo. Bad floorcraft, crazy dancers. But, I have friends who have been there and absolutely loved it.
Maipu 444 was also a bit odd for me. The music was good, the hosts were very friendly but they had the Argentine men on one side, women on the other thing happening. I don’t find that very social at all. It is their way. It is not my way.
What’s the best Buenos Aires tango show?
I have only been to two shows so I cannot really comment. I am not that interested in tango shows. I saw the show at El Viejo Almacen which I enjoyed. But the dinner before was awful. The other show was the one by Carlos Copes. Again, I enjoyed the show but the food wasn’t that great. I found the shows to be designed for the tourists. So they were expensive.
Who are your favorite tango performers?
I like Gustavo Naveira and Giselle-Ann, Chicho Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda, Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, Pablo Inza, Carlos Gavito, Hugo Patyn, Miriam Larici, Geraldine Rojas, Cecilia Gonzales, Milena Plebs, Mora Godoy… my list is endless, but those are the top ones for me. I prefer tangueros to tango performers. Tango performances can be pulled off by any good jazz dancer. Tango requires soul and passion and an intimate one on one connection.
I like lots of Apilado style dancers who are not performers. They are not necessarily Milongueros. Milonguero is not a style. It is a way of life. The “Milonguero Style” was something created for the USA market. Most of the Milongueros dance Apilado. Dancers who dance with their heart driven by an emotion created by the music. Puppy Castello, Ricardo Vidort, El Chino Perico, Pepito Avellaneda, Alberto Dasseiu. Lots more. Some here, some passed away.
What’s the best Buenos Aires tango school? Who are the best instructors?
I like DNI for more advanced nuevo style tango. The old studio was small and crowded their new studio is great. Run by Pablo Villaraza and Dana Frigoli. Also a great place to buy shoes.
I also like Tango Brujo and Escuela Argentina de Tango. I found that with Escuela Argentina de Tango it is not uncommon that the instructors you hoped to work with who are listed in the schedule are either late or miss their class completely. This is annoying at times.
As for instructors, all of those mentioned above as favorite performers. If you can get them and in no particular order: Natasha Probej, Soledad Larratapia, (followers techniques), Pablo Villaraza and Dana Frigoli, Martin Gutierrez, Matias Facio.
Where is the best place to buy tango shoes in Buenos Aires?
DNI for good men’s shoes and Neo shoes makes comfortable shoes for tangueras. Also Tango Brujo and Fabio for ladies and mens shoes.
Any other tips for tango dancers planning their first trip to BA?
Not everywhere takes Visa or US$.
You can only take out $100 per time from the ATM’s and have to pay about $3 to $5 each time.
US$ can only be exchanged at approved Money Exchange offices. Some banks will only do it if you are a customer. Of course you can get it on the street but caveat emptor.
Source: BA Tips
Visit gaucho country, go skiing in the southern lake district or visit the miles of beaches to the south of Buenos Aires.
I lived in Buenos Aires a year and a half recently, and just wanted to make a quick comment on a couple of the milongas Clarry mentioned, just so visitors aren’t confused when looking at a tango guide to find information on milongas.
“Niño Bien” is not a venue. It is the name of a Thursday night milonga that takes place in a venue called Centro Region Leonesa (otherwise known as “La Leonesa”). The Friday milonga in that place is called “Entre Tango y Tango” and yes people go there to dance, not just to be looked at – but go early, like at 8:30 or 9pm when it’s hopping. The Saturday milonga he was referring to could have been the afternoon milonga known as Los Consagrados.
He mentioned Maipu 444 as having the men on one side and women on the other. Definitely the case, and great for hard-core cabeceo-ing. 🙂 A lot of other traditional milongas are like that too, so be prepared.
This was a lot of fun to read!
Thank you, Tina!!! We loved your contribution!!! 🙂
An easy solution to the heel-first/ball-first qutesion is to let your forward step touch the floor first with the outside edge of the foot. Simply turn your toe out and down slightly so that the area of your little toe becomes the landing gear. It looks graceful and unaffected, and allows your weight to come automatically onto the ball of the foot as you complete the step. Depending on your walking trajectory, the heel may sometimes hit first, but it’s not a big deal and you will always have a soft landing if your foot posture follows this formula.Further hint: For back steps and side steps, the inner edge should touch down first. Reach back from the hip and set the posture of your foot to make this happen.