Tango is a national pastime in Uruguay. Born in the Río de la Plata basin, this sensual dance has shocked and seduced audiences for more than a century. More welcoming and less competitive than those in Buenos Aires, today Montevideo’s milongas (or tango salons) embrace newbies with open arms. Here’s Culture Trip’s guide to where to dance tango in Uruguay’s capital city.
Like everything in Uruguay, tango goes on until late. Milongas tend to kick off around 9PM, though don’t be surprised if no one shows up until midnight. Some places charge on the door, but you might find they’ll waive the fee if you go in for a class beforehand. Come October, the city erupts with its annual festival, Viva el Tango – the oldest such celebration in the world. No matter if you’re a tanguero de ley (a pro) or a principiante (total beginner), check out the top five places to dance the tango in Montevideo.
Located right inside Montevideo’s cultural center Mercado de la Abundancia, Joventango is the city’s number one stop for all things tango. This modest salon has a wide dancefloor, a bar, and tables to sit at to rest sleepy feet. There are tango classes at both beginner and intermediate levels every day from Monday to Saturday, at just 225 pesos (about US$8) per session. When you’re ready to strut your stuff, take on a milonga (think freestyle tango showcase) thrown almost every night from 9.30PM.
On Wednesdays in the balmy summer months, you’ll find the Milonga Callejera (or street milonga) in Plaza Liber Seregni, just a few streets away from the busy Tres Cruces bus station. From 8PM, hordes of dancers turn up for a free class that often runs past midnight. It’s inclusive and welcoming, even if you’ve never danced a step in your life. Just turn up and join in.
On the last Friday of every month, Mercado Agrícola just north of the city center is home to a vibrant display of tango. It’s frequented by locals and visitors alike, welcoming everyone from seasoned pros to shaky beginners. This charming market also plays host to a variety of professional showcases and galas by widely recognized dancing troops, like Avalancha Tanguera, throughout the year.
Led by Pepe and Mónica, tango dancing at La Yapita is an intimate affair. Every Saturday at 9.30PM, enthusiastic toe tappers turn up to their modest workshop in barrio Centro for a thrilling (and totally free) milonga. To get yourself warmed up, attend the step-by-step classes beforehand: beginners from 7-8.30PM and intermediates from 8.15-9.30PM. Turn up early, as this exhibition is popular and space is often limited.
On intermittent Wednesdays, Museo del Vino hosts a “class, chat and dance” workshop from 8.30PM to get even the most reluctant dancers on their feet. Often showcasing well-known dancers and tango enthusiasts, it’s a fun night out without a hefty price tag. The cost of the class is only 250 pesos, or just shy of US$9, with a party that goes on until the small hours. Call ahead to reserve a spot, order a glass of Uruguayan tannat and throw caution to the wind.