A MILONGA IN DA HOOD
Looking for a milonga that's long on local color and character and short on pretention? I'd recommend going to the Centro Cultural Tato Bores located on Soler between Vidt and Salguero on the 3rd Friday of every month. There's no exchange of currency at the door, no coat check, no dueño showing you to your seat. In fact, there's also no wood floor, no champagne, and you have to get the soft drinks and empanadas your own damn self, but that just adds to the "casera" (homemade) charm. Given its location in auditorium/cafeteria of a local elementary school, and taped signs on the wall instructing kids to raise their hand if they want something, the milonga has that casual "community center" feel that I've always loved. All that's missing is the processed-cheese-cafeteria food smell.
Before you turn up your nose thinking that you're too much of a slickster tango dancer to set any part of your 3-inch heel-clad foot through the doors of a slightly delapidated elementary school to dance with dressed-down no-namers, I'd say that this is a great opportunity to let your hair down, take off your control-top pantyhose, and witness tango maybe at its purest: in the community, with normal people of all ages who love the dance, and who aren't so concerned about making an impression.
Of course, being populated with dancers who aren't so concerned about making an impression does lend itself to some wildly varying "niveles de baile" (dance levels), mostly leaning toward the average, below average, and just-starting-out. However, I have never had so much fun, nor felt so comfortable and so relaxed at a milonga, maybe because the codes seemed more flexible here; or maybe because IT DIDN'T FEEL LIKE WORK, as in "working" the outfit and the hair, "working" the room with the eye contact. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy to chill out and watch, as I sat all bundled up in my bulky sweater, pants, and winter coat, but, hey, a milonga is a milongo, and I had my tango shoes on. One man, a friend of mine, asked me directly. Then my boyfriend invited another guy we had just met, who was sitting at our 8-top round table with his wife/partner, to dance with me. The rest of the time was spent getting to know people at the table, a rare occurence in a regular milonga.
Néstor La Vitola and Mónica Paz, both teachers here, suggested arriving between 9:00 and 9:15 p.m. to get a seat at one of the 9 or 10 tables. By 9:30, the place is usually packed to the gills.
This milonga is part of a the governement-sponsored and subsidized project called ProgramaCultural en Barrios, and is just one of the many cultural activities offered by the Ministerio de Cultura around town. This locale offers classes in everything from percussion to theater games to screenwriting, many of which are free-a-licious, always a bonus for a thrifty milonguera who needs to save her stash for aguas con gas at the milonga and another pair of shoes.