Tag Archives: salsa

Tango and Salsa in Buenos Aires

From the packed and thumping boliches (nightclubs) to the sultry tango, dance is an important facet of Argentine culture. While I didn’t grow up in tutus or performing in dance recitals, I do love to dance, and living in Buenos Aires has given me the opportunity to indulge that and attempt to actually add some technique to my grooving. Buenos Aires is the birthplace of tango, and while it is the obvious choice for shows and lessons here, it’s salsa I have gotten into dancing. Latin Americans from all parts live in Buenos Aires, and salsa, which is hugely popular, is a dance that seems to unite them all.

Below are my recommendations for where to watch, try and appreciate both tango and salsa.

To See Tango

Most visitors to Buenos Aires make it a point to attend a tango show, and rightly so, as the city is the pulsing heart of the dance, the “vertical expression of horizontal desire.” Problem is, for every quality tango show in the city, there are perhaps two to three tourist trap attractions. Therefore, when my family came to visit I was careful about selecting what show we would attend. The BAExpats forum guided me to Tango Emoción on a small stage at Centro Cultural Borges in the heart of downtown. The above video clip is from the show, though unfortunately a little too shadowy to see the fancy footwork in all its glory. There was not a bad seat in the house and the show’s patriarch, an elderly Argentine man plucking the piano with gusto, interacted with the audience and made the whole event even more intimate and entertaining. Check the Centro Cultural Borges site for information about similar shows and other events. It boasts some great art programming.

To Dance Tango

I can only provide limited guidance on this front, because while I am the first to stop and admire tango dancers, I’m not particularly drawn to learning the dance myself. (I think I’m intimidated by the technicality of it all.)

Tuesday milonga at La Catedral, by Karina

Still, I can attest that La Catedral is a popular spot for dancing tango. The space is a converted theater with a laid-back vibe and art hanging from the walls and high ceilings. I’ve been and felt just as comfortable sitting at a table, downing some of the tasty vegetarian grub from the kitchen and Argentines’ favorite Stella Artois as my beginner friends participating in the milonga, which is the name for a place/event where people dance tango. La Viruta (mentioned below) also offers tango lessons and holds milongas.

My roommate, who studied dance in college in the U.S. and has been taking tango (as well as salsa) classes regularly recommends the following:

Best place to take lessons for beginner-intermediate level: DNI-tango. They have a good beginners’ milonga the last Saturday night of every month and also have a nice weekly milonga on Saturday afternoons from 4 to 7 pm.

For a classic and traditional tango milonga visit Salón Canning on Monday or Tuesday night when they have a beginning/intermediate class at 7 pm, advanced class at 9 pm, and then milonga.

La Catedral has an excellent tango night on Tuesdays with a class at 8:30pm and then milonga. They also have good milongas on the weekends. There also is a good tango class at Zarasa Tango at 7:30pm on Wednesday nights.

For tango nuevo check out Villa Malcolm on Friday night when they have a class and then milonga 11:30-3am. Then head over to La Viruta for more tango/salsa dancing from 3am-6am.

Other places that people have mentioned to me that are good for tango but I have not seen yet are: Práctica X, Boedo Tango, Confiteria Ideal, El Beso and Asociación Armenia on Thursday and Friday nights.

To See and Dance Salsa

Every Tuesday you can find me at La Viruta, a space (bar-equipped) in the basement of an unassuming Aremenian cultural building on Armenia street in Palermo Soho. For AR $25, you gain entrance to three hours of salsa cubana lessons and practica, or free-dance sessions. The structure of the night is lesson-practica-lesson-practica, which gives dancers the chance to dance with partners in any level and practice their newly learned moves. I love La Viruta because I find it to be a relaxed, friendly environment to learn and practice salsa—the practica is key—and on Tuesdays it is filled with people shimmying and shaking across the dance floor. Go to both learn salsa and observe some impressive dancers at work.

Azucar Belgrano is another favorite salsa spot. I have only been on Mondays, though, on which there is no practica. After attending classes with the free-dance portion at La Viruta, I have realized that really makes all the difference in learning, because there won’t always be a teacher there calling out your next steps.

I also have heard good things about Hanoi and Cuba Mía, though both are still on my to-do list. Hanoi apparently is smaller than La Viruta, which gives students more one-on-one time with the teachers. In addition to lessons, Cuba Mía is supposed to make for a fun, happening Friday night out of salsa.

One More Place to See Dance

Teatro Colón before a show, by Karina

You might not catch tango or salsa on stage, but perhaps you can snag tickets to a ballet at the majestic Teatro Colón, what I consider the city’s most impressive and opulent building. If you plan to go I urge you to spring for the pricier tickets, because many of the seats, even if only AR $20 less than the best, are often uncomfortable have obstructed views.

Also: Don’t be surprised if you hear of Argentines taking flamenco classes or see posters advertising flamenco shows. I have a couple Argentine friends who take flamenco lessons, and its popularity makes sense in a city where almost half the local population claims Spanish heritage.

Karina

To Valentine or Not to Valentine

Dinner and a movie can make for a great evening, but alternatives are usually better. Whether you’re single or one half of a couple, below are some events at and involving Chicago-area venues we love.

Shop

 

Event flyer

 

The Bonanza! Vintage Blowout Sale at Berlin Nightclub (you know, the one almost under the Belmont Red Line stop) will feature selections from The Sometimes Store, Knee Deep Vintage (one of Tara’s favorite Chicago vintage boutiques), Clothes Optional and Kokorokoko. (DITC will also be there with some non-vintage clothing.) Going broke? Don’t worry — there will be $5, $10 and $20 racks. The shopping event goes from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., but ’80s music will play until 4 a.m. There’s no cover so come and go as you please, but if you find yourself nearby at 9 p.m., stop in for a Valentine’s Day drag show! Visit the event’s Facebook page for more info.

Salsa

San Valentín Salsa Sunday at the Cubby Bear is a favorite Sunday night spot of ours, as we’ve told you before. But this Sunday, in honor of Valentine’s Day, extend your night into an epic salsa affair. If you’re going as a couple, head to Carnivale first (702 W. Fulton Market) for dinner specials and the music of Los Guitarristas, not to mention the killer mojitos and free roses. Afterward, bring your bill and three friends to the Cubby Bear (1049 W. Addison) and you’ll all get in free. Carnivale’s dinner specials and music run from 6 to 9:30 p.m., and the Cubby Bear has DJs working from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., along with some $3 drink specials. Click here for more info on Carnivale’s event, and here for the Cubby Bear event. If you’re headed to the Cubby Bear but not Carnivale, you can still get in without paying the cover if you fill out this form and print the email.

Celebrate

 

A photo of last year's new year celebration, courtesy of ChicagoDragons.com.

 

The Year of the Ox is on its way out; it’s the Year of the Tiger! OK, so not yet, but Chinese New Year just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day this year. At 1 p.m., the Lunar New Year Parade will head down Wentworth Avenue between 24th Street and Cermak. Don’t miss the 100-foot dragon! Other activities start at 11:30 a.m., but we recommend the Phoenix restaurant for some of the best dim sum in Chicago before watching the parade.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Salsa Sundays

We’ve found a cure to the Sunday night blues, thanks to our friend and kindred, Allie (who is quite the salsa reina, might we add).

Cubby Bear in Wrigleyville is a de rigueur sports bar any other night of the week — it’s right across from Wrigley Field — but every Sunday night transforms into salsa central. The middle of the spacious bar is free of tables, stools and chairs to make room for men and women of all ages and skill levels. Really, all sorts flock to Salsa Sundays, which makes for a fun hodgepodge of characters who are all just looking to dance. It’s an energetic, free-for-all atmosphere and free to enjoy if you arrive before 9:30 p.m., and try out the free lesson, which is pretty basic, at 7 p.m.

Once the free-for-all salsa began, one of us was a little more self conscious about her steps, but the words “I’m a beginner” were almost magical; everyone was more than happy to share their rhythm and knowledge. Check out our video below, which has clips from the lesson and DJ’d portions.

After our time at Cubby Bear, we couldn’t help but draw comparisons between our favorite East Village NYC salsa spot, Plan B, where salsa goes down on Wednesdays. It’s a smaller venue than Cubby Bear and with the live band (rather than a DJ), the blaring brass of the music is inescapable — in a good way, of course. Let your geographic location dictate which you visit, because both are great spots to let loose and move, even if you’re uncertain about your steps.

Tara and Karina for TKGO