Where Is Your Seat?

In general, milongas in Buenos Aires are more organized than most of the milongas in the rest of the world. Free seating (as far as I know) almost doesn’t exist in popular milongas in Buenos Aires. Depends on the organizers, milongas are organized in different manner. Milongas like Parakultural in Canning and Niño Bien are more causal. You can reserve a table for your friends, chit chatting and dancing. Men and women are mix together in the salon, you can get dances rather easily no matter where you sit, because there’s always men and women around you. And for the guys, sometimes they don’t even need a seat or table. They can walk around the salon, try to catch the eyes of women and get dances. This kind of milongas is ideal if you want to hang out with friends and dance at the same time. I think many dancers who have been to Buenos Aries are familiar with that. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Here I want to talk about more traditional (old style) milongas, where the host strictly organizes the floor plan, as well as each dancer’s seat. In this kind of milongas, the salon is mainly divided into 2 parts – 1 for the men and 1 for the women. These 2 parts are always facing each other, that make the eye-invitation easy for both parties. If there is a third part in the room, then it’s for couples or groups, and usually this part is at the place where eye-invitation is almost impossible. Because people assume that when you go to milonga with your partner and sit together, you would only dance with your own partner. Same idea probably applies to group as well.

When you enter this kind of milonga, after you pay your entrance, you have to wait for the organizer(s) to sit you. Where you sit depends on many factors. But one thing is sure – where you sit can almost define how your night is going to be. Will it be a great evening, having many dances and dancing with many good dancers; or will it be a boring night, struggling to get dances and finally you can only have 2 tandas with so-so dancers within 6 hours of hard work; it all depends on where you sit. Of course there’s always exception, but to be exceptionally popular in a milonga while you’re having a bad seat, either you are known among dancers, or your dance is super good, or your face and your body are super good looking.

So what factors determine your seat?

  • Are you local (Argentinean) or visitor?
  • How is your dancing?
  • Are you coming to this milonga regularly?
  • Are you a popular / highly demanded among the dancers in the same milonga?
  • Are you socially friendly? How do you get along with other regular dancers in the same milonga? Do you respect the dance code in the milonga?
  • Are you organizer’s friend?
  • Do you look gorgeous and sexy (mainly for ladies)?
  • Does the organizer like you?
  • Are you dancing a lot in this milonga?
  • Do you speak Spanish (that affects your relationship with everybody in the milonga)?
  • Are you well-known tango figure or well-established regulars in this milonga?

There’s no absolute rule on how these criteria function. But I think in most cases the crucial criteria are the first 4 on the above list. But the rest on the list also matters. For example, I remember I saw a good looking western girl who wore sexy dress got seated in one of the best seat in the milonga, but she was just a beginner dancer. One thing is quite sure though, if you are a good dancer and respectful, usually a responsible organizer won’t give you bad seat (except the first time you appear in his/her milonga, when he or she has no clue about who you are and how you dance). If you’re just a short-term visitor, then no matter how good or popular you are, don’t expect that you can get the best seat in the milonga. In most cases, the best seats are reserved for the well-established local dancers, who go to this milonga regularly. A tanguero, who moved here for almost 2 years, once told me that he tried all the seats (all the bad ones) in the same milonga. It took him more than a year to get the current front row seat, which is considered a very good seat in a milonga. “It takes time to let people know about you and accept you as part of the community,? he said. So from where you seat, you can roughly figure out your “status”, “position” or “how your dance is considered” in the milonga. It sounds cruel and very competitive, but that’s the way it is. I like this practice very much, because it helps me to choose who I want to dance with. And this little information, your seat, is highly reliable.

Thus in these kind of traditional milonga, the organizer has strict and almost absolute control over the milonga. Those responsible organizers know their guests and treat them accordingly. They go to other milongas to check out the tango crowd, sometimes even invite good dancers to their milongas. They always keep an eye on the dance floor, making sure that nobody can create trouble to the dance floor or to the community. I saw an organizer asking beginner dancers to stop dancing during the peak hour in the milonga because those dancers created navigation problem on the dance floor. I also witnessed an organizer told a group of Japanese tourists who obviously didn’t know the code of the milonga, to stop “pulling” ladies out to dance. A good milonga organizer doesn’t just provide a venue, drinks and music for people to dance. He or she also needs to pay attention to many details. And most important of all, to build up a good relation with his or her guests.

2 Responses to “Where Is Your Seat?”

  1. Lily Says:

    Hi Royce,

    I enjoyed reading this piece of writing very much, very detailed observation… but i don’t get where are the best seats actually? of course those nearest the dance floor are the best, but are there any other rules? like the left or right, those farthest from the entrance or nearest or those near the bar or away from the bar area or what ??…

    Hey, we are going on 19 March. See you there soon.

  2. Royce Says:

    Hi Lily,

    Usually the seats just next to the dance floor are good, because people can have a good view on the dance floor and it makes cabeceo easy. Where the popular milongueros / milongueras sit are good too, because they are good dancers, regularly customers plus friends of the organizers (if you’re the organizer, you won’t give your friend a bad seat, right?). If your seat has an opening view to the dance floor, almost nobody can block you (means you can see and be seen completely), and you are not far from the best / most wanted dancers in the milonga, then probably your seat is a good seat.

    Different milongas have different settings, if you go to the same milonga regularly and observe, slowly you will notice where the best seats are.

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