Milonga Underground

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Offered by: Nicholas Tinelli

Starting at $225/person

1 to 3 people

approx. 4 hours

Travel photography

Do you want to experience dance forms beyond the Tango?

Buenos Aires is synonymous to Tango and one must have a tango experience while visiting the city. Yet, for those who want to see a more raw yet intimate dance interaction between partners, one must check out the Milonga, a quick-footed and faster cousin of the Tango with roots from the Cuban “habanera.” Born in the immigrant-heavy public houses and brothels of Argentina and Uruguay, and known for its rather “too close” proximity between partners, the Milonga is a looser and more free flowing version of the Tango.

Milonga is a celebration and letting loose between friends and passionate people, carried out by a new generation of dancers. It maintains the solid values and respect from the past, yet the social and aesthetic rules have changed. There is greater freedom in all aspects. Unlike the Tango, a Milonga can have a woman leading the man or two dancers of the same sex. Clothing can be completely traditional or casual and suggestive. This experience takes you to the hidden places in Buenos Aires where Milonga thrives. Through Nicholas, you get a glimpse into the life of these professional dancers for whom passion is a lifestyle.

  • Almost every visitor to Buenos Aires will have seen and shot a Tango performance – either at a show organized at a theater or at one of the numerous dining venues that host brief tango sessions. This is your chance to get as intimate a view as possible to the Milonga – an Argentine dance form that is a cousin of the Tango with roots in the Cuban Habanera.
  • Experience and capture the behind-the-scenes environment of a Milonga. Hang out with dancers and first-hand interact with a dancing couple at their home over an aperitif.
  • Move about safely in the night to two different Milonga venues. Nicholas will pick two of the most happening “underground” Milonga venues from the neighborhoods of Abasto, San Telmo, Palermo, Almagro, and Villa Crespo. The specific locations will be determined closer to the experience.
  • A Milonga is not yet a mainstream Buenos Aires experience like the Tango has become, this is your opportunity to see and shoot something off-the-beaten-path while in Buenos Aires.

This experience is suitable for photographers of all levels and visitors to Argentina interested in a raw, uncut, behind the scenes dance experience.  Photographic opportunities can align with interests in portraiture, travel photography or even a documentary style photo story. You will intimate access to dancers, including spending some time at their home as they talk about Milonga and get ready for the night.

  • We’ll meet at the dancers’ house, where we’ll have a little aperitif and get to know a dancing couple
  • The couple will tell us something about what they do, their lifestyle and more details about the milonga “underground”
  • You will have the opportunity to shoot portraits of the dancers as well as moments when they are getting dressed, doing their make up and hair etc.
  • Together we will move to the dance clubs, some charge an entrance fee, others are a la “gorra” (fees are included in the costs)
  • We will see the Milonga with the dancers, with explanation on the styles and  instructions on the movements.
  • There are 3 kinds of dance that you will see during the performances: Milonga, Tango, and Vals.

Additional information

Meeting point
Near the city centre, exact location to be confirmed after booking. Pick up from your hotel is also possible depending on where it is.

Recommended equipment
A DSLR or mirrorless camera of your choice. A normal lens (like a 24-70mm) or wide-angle. Most milonga halls are dimly lit so a fast lens (f1.8 or faster) is extremely useful. A tripod is also useful if you want to do some slow shutter shots, Nicholas can provide one.

Activity level
Medium – a fair bit of walking is involved

Important Notes
The dance clubs usually serve drinks and fast food (pizza, empanadas, fried potatoes). One drink at the dancer’s house and one drink at the Milonga hall are included as part of this experience.

Additional Reading
The Milonga is not merely a social dance space, but a nocturnal universe where past etiquette codes from generation to generation co-exist with new and more relaxed ones. There are more than 200 Milongas a week just in the city of Buenos Aires, with an enormous variety of characteristics ranging from the most conservative and traditional to the youngest and most informal. Some happen in large and elegant halls, others in neighborhood clubs, others in old houses turned into cultural centers. In each space, the forms of interaction, the costumes and the dance itself (unlike the stage show, the Tango that is danced every night in the Milongas is an improvisational dance) changes as a reflection of society itself. In the young Milongas, respect and encouragement to diversity prevail: there are no rigid codes on the dress and couples of the same sex (regardless of their sexual orientation) or women leaders can be seen dancing peacefully, something until a long time reserved only to the Queer environment. After decades of being culturally relegated as something “old” and “from another era,” at the beginning of the 21st-century tango has once again become a dynamic element of the porteños cultural life.