The tango milonga —or tango salon— scene in Montevideo is much more friendly and less intimidating than in Buenos Aires.
It is frequented by a small group of mainly locals. So when they see a new face, people will come up to you to find out what you are doing there and to ask you to dance! This is very different from the competitive atmosphere in Buenos Aires.
There is also a lot more space on the dance floor, useful for beginners.
So especially if you are a beginner or intermediate dancer, Montevideo is definitely the place for you to improve your technique.
Hey, wait! I thought tango was from Argentina?
Oops, don’t catch any Uruguayan hearing you say that. Tango is a heritage shared by Argentina and Uruguay.
It is a quintessential part of music and dance from both countries, and it’s actually more accurate to refer to tango as rioplatense* – meaning that it is from the Rio de la Plata or River Plate region. In fact the world’s most famous tango is half-Uruguayan, half-Argentinian.
Days, times and costs of milongas in Uruguay
You can find a milonga to attend any night of the week in Montevideo. There are at least two milongas, or tango salons, open every day.
Beware! Milongas start about 9.30 pm during the week and 10.30 pm on weekends, but most dancers don’t get there until hours later! On the weekends most people arrive about 11 pm and dancing goes on till 4 am.
Monday is the quietest day of the week with the Lunera milonga run by veterans Cristina and Oscar in the classic venue with the best floor in Montevideo, Joventango.
The busiest nights are Wednesdays and Thursdays with three milongas every night to choose from.
On Wednesdays from October, you can dance in the open air at the Milonga Callejera (Street Milonga) in Plaza Liber Seregni a few blocks from the Tres Cruces bus station. Organised on the premise that anyone can and should be able to dance tango, this milonga is entirely volunteer-run and includes a free class from 8pm.
It’s super popular and a lovely atmosphere which goes on till midnight, six months a year (the warmer ones obviously) and often New Year’s Eve too.
The same group that organises the Callejera organises a milonga on the last Friday of every month at the Montevideo Agricultural Market (the MAM) – “everyone goes” says my insider tango-dancing friend (more about her below).
La Conjura Bar, a bit of a hippie joint, has tango dancing at Sunday lunchtime from 1.30 pm. You could combine this with a trip to the Tristan Narvaja flea and antique market in the morning.
Saturdays, I’d recommend you go to Lo de Margot on a Saturday night anytime from 11 pm. Margot is the Grande Dame of Tango. She’s in her 80s and you are dancing in her living room. You’ll see her toothpaste in the bathroom. Yes, seriously.
Entrance fee to the milongas is usually charged at the door and it is modest, about 200 pesos (apx 6 USD). If you take a class before you will normally not have to pay for the milonga.
8pm tango cafe concerts in Joventango
A little tip: Joventango runs a tango cafe-concert on Sunday nights, with exhibition dancing and occasional live music followed by the milonga. The good news is that the cafe-concerts start at 8pm. Unusually early for Montevideo entertainment!
Find a milonga in Montevideo
The Montevideo milonga calendar can change at any given time. There is no one place to go to get up-to-date information. Sigh.. I know
The most up-to-date information appears on individual milonga pages on Facebook. This is very common with cultural events in Montevideo.
Tango DJ Veronica Bares’ website is one of the most up-to-date and Vero is very quick to answer questions. It is in Spanish but uses a graph which is easy to understand.
The Guru recommends Montevideo tango milongas
I don’t dance myself but I have a very good friend who does, and she shared insider observations regarding the character of each milonga which you can read in The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo in an extensive chapter on tango in Montevideo.
You’ll find out which milongas are frequented by “tangueros de ley” (old school tango dancers who are strictly orthodox in their attire, etiquette and dancing style).
Which are more “hippie” — including dancers wearing their street shoes, even tennis shoes (sacrilege!).
And which monthly milonga is held in a crumbling Art-deco mansion frequented by members of the national ballet that’s not to be missed…
You will also find collected contact details for each milonga in English (yessss), where to take dance classes, dance class etiquette and recommended tango teachers (thinking specifically of you as a non-Uruguayan).
So what are you waiting for? Support independent publishing AND your tango dancing with the Guru’Guay Guide in paperback (new!), for tablets and phones.
Photos: In a testament to truely how NOT-for-export the Montevideo tango scene is, I was unable to find a single Montevideo milonga photo for commercial use, till I got lucky enough to stumble on Leo Alvarez‘s photos of the Hijos de Galicia milonga in Parque Rodó. Thanks, Leo!