Dance tango in Uruguay. Especially if you are a beginner or intermediate tango dancer, the tango scene in Montevideo is much friendlier than Buenos Aires.
The tango milonga—or dance 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! Most 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. There are a few afternoon milongas.
There are several open air milongas including on New Year’s Eve too. Entrance fee to the milongas is usually charged at the door and it is modest, anything from no charge to 150 pesos (less than 5 USD). If you take a class before you will normally not have to pay for the milonga.
GURU RECOMMENDATION The Sunday evening cafe concerts at Joventango
Joventango runs a tango cafe-concert on Sunday nights, with exhibition dancing and occasional live music followed by the milonga. It’s kind of cheesy and totally authentic. I love it. The good news is that the cafe-concerts start at 7.30pm. Unusually early for Montevideo entertainment.
Find a milonga and group tango classes in Montevideo
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). 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! [Article first published: Mar 14, 2016 and last updated at the date above]
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