There are very few practicas in Buenos Aires where you can actually practice. To be clear, there are lots of places that say that they’re a practica, but in reality when you go, you’re looking at a Milonga, and there’s quite honestly no distinction between ‘Practica’ and ‘Milonga’ because they look exactly the same there.
First, let’s be clear about what a ‘Practica’ is supposed to be: A Practica is a place where you can actually practice what you have learned and relearned. A place to try out new things, dance with multiple partners while trying out those ‘new’ things, and at the same seek some feedback about them thar ‘new’ things. It’s also a place to stop, engage in conversation about what’s going on with your dance, ask for feedback, and ideally try to work out your issues so that they no longer mar your dance (embrace, walk, and/or vocabulary). This is a place to talk about your technique, your understanding of that technique if, and only ‘if’, a discussion is warranted or needed to clean up those issues. This says nothing about the music, but this is all about the ability to stop and engage in enlightened feedback about your dancing skills and technique. The music side of this, should be but is not limited to continuous music, without cortinas. Further still, and probably the single most important component of a practica: It does not adhere to the rules of a Milonga which means that Followers can ask for a dance (Right ? God forbid that should happen huh ?). A ‘dance’ in either case can be initiated by either role, and can last as long or as little as you like or not at all. No one is under any obligations. It can be and should be from a few walking steps to several songs until you tire of each other. There is no hard and fast rule about the length of dancing together. Again, the rules of the Milonga go right out the window with one exception: LINE and LANE of DANCE. We do actually adhere to the rules of Floorcraft! Meaning, no running into someone, or something, no bumping partners, staying in the line and lane of dance that you’re in. Typically with practicas there is an outer track of a ronda but everything else inside of that is a Tango Zoo.
The DNI Practica on Saturday afternoons, is one such place where all of these things are possible (minus the music part - cortinas are still employed). Some people approach it as a Practica and most of the women treat it as a Milonga, sadly. But this is true of most practicas, so the DNI Practica is no different.
The Neighborhood. To be fair, it’s a bit sketchy. But then again, most of Buenos Aires is like that. It’s a good idea not to bring anything that looks expensive or can easily be taken from you. It’s also a good idea not to go alone at night or really just go with someone. However, because this is a daytime Practica, safety isn't really an issue. There aren’t that many shops or places to get a bite to eat or any shopping really. This is a residential neighborhood really. Aside from the supermarket across the street, there’s fruit stand and that’s about it.
In Case of Hunger. 🙂 Unlike most dancing facilities in Buenos Aires with the exception of Villa Malcolm, most serve Milonga finger food — Medialunas, empanadas caseras (homemade), etc…. However, the DNI Facility has it’s own kitchen on site and they do have a full menu available — Smoothies, fresh fruit, fresh made cakes and pastries, salads, and everything you might want. So if you don’t want to bring your own, you can always buy something on site to suit your taste. But also remember, there’s the supermarket across the street that does have a fairly good selection to curb your hunger pains at a reasonable price.
The Atmosphere. Walking into DNI, assuming you don’t currently study with them, you’ll ring the buzzer to get in. And once you’re in, you’ll walk to the desk, and they’ll ask in english or spanish what you want, and you’ll say “Practica”. They’ll charge you the going rate, ask your name and then you’re free to go up to the Practica. If you’re needing shoes, clothes, or anything else, try their store. It’s a full on cornucopia in this dance studio. However it’s not a ‘buy, buy, buy’ situation. If you want to buy, you can but it’s not shoved in your face. Once you’re in, you’ll walk up 3 flights of stairs. Yes, THREE flights of stairs. You’ll pass several practice rooms. And you’ll finally reach your destination. Oh and the bathrooms are on 2 separate floors. Be aware of it. The men’s room is directly across from the Practica space, and the women’s is one flight down. 🙂
The Practica Setting. This is an ‘Open’ Practica. Unlike Germany, the UK, or most of Europe, for that matter. This is not what’s referred as a ‘Guided’ Practica or a class disguised as a Practica. There are no teachers telling you what to study, or how to dance, or who to dance with. It’s come, dance, do your thing.
The Age Factor. Let’s get this out of the way: Yes there are ladies of a certain age sitting, that happens everywhere, no getting around that one. And yes there are the young women dressed in skimpy this or that. And yes there are the older ‘hawks’ in the room. But again, this is true of any Milonga in the world. It’s just that here, at this Practica, because it’s Buenos Aires, there are more of everything, that’s all. At the same time, age does and doesn’t matter here. If you’re brave enough to try this Practica then you’ll find someone to dance with. However breaking the ice to get that dance to prove that you know what you’re doing, that takes time and patience. The age range of the dancers can seem off-putting to some people looking for the same age people. However that age range is entirely unfounded. There is a full age range of dancers so don’t let that get in your way. To be very truthful, you’re going to feel intimidated no matter your age, no matter your skill level. However, once you start dancing, the intimidation passes.
Dress Code. As with most ‘younger’ populated Milongas and ‘Practicas’ in Buenos Aires. There isn’t one. Show up in whatever you’re comfortable to move in and remember this is a practica NOT a Milonga so come dressed for social comfort and dancing comfort. In other words there is no dress code. 🙂
The Room You’ll Be In. First off, depending on the time of year you visit, the room is insanely hot. Strike that, it’s insanely hot all year round. Why ? Because of the volume of people. In the high season it’s packed by 4:30 to 5:00 pm. Practica starts at 4 and goes to 8. The room has a weight bearing column in the middle of it which does tend to get in the way. It’s ¾ of the way back on the left side of the room from where you’ll enter. There is a LONG full length mirror on the left side of the room. There are ventilation windows to your immediate left and directly across from you. To your immediate left from the door is another weight bearing column, and where most people hang out to get dances. There’s usually a long couch up on a dias there (this may have changed as they do change the room around). There are chairs waaaaaay across the room from the entrance, or a long bench really. There’s no place to store anything, no lockers, so be careful with whatever you bring. Usually folks pile their stuff in the far left corner. The floor, unlike most places you'll be in is not hard concrete like La Viruta, but rather soft wood. The floor does creak, but you'll never hear it over the music and the people. Meaning ? The floor does 'give' in certain places and has a 'springy-ness' to it.
The Dancing ? Floorcraft can get be a bit ‘challenging’ at times, which is putting it mildly. It can also, and frequently does, get very, very, very crowded. The dancing does get quite compacted by the volume of people in the room, because at some point they have to go somewhere as they usually start lining the walls and this does impact the floorcraft in the room to a degree. From one perspective it may appear as though there’s a lot of young people dancing crazy figures and the near impossible. And you will see this, frequently. It can be intimidating in one respect and in another not. From another perspective it all looks like a zoo where you’ll see everything imaginable. Still another perspective is that there are very desirable dancers in the room. There is an outer track of line of dance, and a mishmoshed 2nd track that loses it’s semblance of a line frequently (due to the shape of room - remember there’s a column in the way) and the rest is a complete zoo. The dancing is not what you’ll expect. It’s actually quite good. Expect a level of quality that is consummate with Buenos Aires. Meaning that what you’ll see at any milonga is what you’ll find here. There’s close embrace, open embrace, some ‘v’ embrace, compact dancing, figure based dancing, and everything in between. All are welcome.
There is a Performance. Usually there is a performance in the middle of the Practica time. Something to inspire you. And the performances are sometimes by teachers of DNI, and increasingly the very popular dancers of Buenos Aires that you’ve seen time and time again on youtube. If you don’t like performances and think that they have no place in a practica, you might want to step outside and go up to the roof while the performance happens. 😉 Oh and there is a roof…a nice roof actually.
Where to sit ? There are no tables, no reservations, and no chairs really. There’s a long bench on the opposite side of the room from the entrance, and there’s a long couch up on a dias but really not much else. It’s stand, find a wall, or a column, and lean for a while or sit on the floor. Whatever works. Remember this is a dance studio…not a glamor palace!
Why is this a good Practica ? That’s subjective really but the one thing that makes it a good practice space is that it does allow for you to stop and engage in the conversation of what’s going on with your dance. That and it is an actual practica. With the focus being - TO PRACTICE! That ranges from just walking, to steps, patterns, figures, to actual dancing and everything in between. Ideally it’s an atmosphere of openness that makes a place feel like it’s ok to do wha you want (within reason) and this Practica has that air in spades. 😉
In the End. It’s 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon. At certain times of the year it can be insanely hot in the room, so bring water with you (hence the visit to the supermarket across the street before you go in). There is AC in the room, but it’s quickly overwhelmed by the volume of people in the room, at some point it does lose its efficacy. The people are nice and friendly, there is no space for snobbiness, no more than usual. It’s an open atmosphere to bring your game and see how it works in the room. If you’ve got game, then bring it, but be forewarned there are other people doing exactly that. It’s a wide cross section of game.
Contact Info: The address is Bulnes 1011, and their phone number is +54 11 4866-6553. Yes they speak Spanish and English fluently. 😉 There are a number of buses that run very close to and within 2 minute walking distance to the studio. #SocialDance #ArgentineTango #TangoDancing