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Today’s Tango Advice 087: BsAs – La Viruta. 

Let’s get the details out of the way. The sight lines are awful. It’s dark, pitch dark in certain parts of the room. It’s crowded, and hot even with the A.C on in the ‘summer’. The drinks are expensive. The tables are small, assuming you can find one or have reserved one (which is recommended). The ‘hot’ area, meaning a place to ‘get’ dances, in the room is in front of the bar at the back left side of the room, and the entrance fee is on par with everywhere else (see end). There’s a restaurant upstairs, and on Mondays and Tuesday nights there is Salsa there. The rest of the week, it’s all Tango baby. There are classes nearly every night of the week, for different levels.

Yes, it is one of the more happening places in the BsAs tango scene. Yes, there are lots of people from all over the world. Yes, Tango Royalty holds court there almost every night. Yes, there are insanely good dancers there (lead or follow). Yes, the room, at later hours, is populated by teacher class dancers, teachers, performers, and tango youtube stars. Yes, there are fresh Medialunas (delivered in s shopping cart! across the dance floor) at 4 am con cafe which is should not be missed. And yes there are a lot of people on FRI, and SAT. All true.

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The Atmosphere ? You’re not going to like this part: It is at once exclusionary, and aloof. It is not the friendliest place in the world for Tango. It is, and can be, cut throat, hard core! Only the heavily social, talented, crazy brave, ignorant, or supremely interested should go. If you’re not in these categories, or if you’re thinking that tango is happy, fun, social, loving, caring, and above all ‘friendly’ (the vapid view of tango), then you probably don’t want to go, except on special occasions. Let’s put this simply: La Viruta is the Lion’s den of Social Tango in Buenos Aires! Emphasis on the first word ‘Social’ and the second word is accented there, ‘Tango’. You either show up with game or go home. And don’t bother whining, or crying about that you didn’t get dances, or that no one sees you. There’s a reason for that. Several actually. 1.) The sight lines are awful. 2.) No one knows who the frak you are. 3.) You haven’t stood out enough (in a good way). 4.) You haven’t been there long enough (in BsAs). 5.) Hello! Were you not paying attention ? It’s DARK!!! The fact is that if you go, your ass is going to sit most of the night (unless you’re in a group)! You have to have been seen to be noticed in this room. Note the past tense there, ‘have been seen’.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. And that does create an air of, or at least the perception of, aloofness, snobbiness, rudeness, or the holier-than-thou attitude, at a certain hour. Earlier in the night this ‘air’ is not present. It’s like any other Milonga. Yes there are lots of people dancing (very good dancers after a certain hour, but not before). Yes there are lots of people talking, having ‘fun’, but trust that if you fall into one of the categories above or fit one of the characterizations that you’re going to sit most of the night. This isn’t true of everyone’s experience, and that’s because you’ve either gone with a group or you have friends that are already there that can ease you into this Milonga’s particular environment, but if no one knows you ? Ha! Good luck with that.

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Have you seen Dancing In A Small Space (DIASS) ? If you’re planning to dance at a Tango Marathon, Festival, Encuentro, Buenos Aires, or your local Milonga is a very crowded and you want to know how to dance well in a small crowded space, then this video is the key to that process.

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Where to sit ? When you walk from the stairs onto the landing which will take you into the room, the tables and chairs that are along the left side of the room, closest to the bar is ideal. On Fri/Sat nights these are usually taken, but that’s where you want to be. The tables just across from them and in front of the bar, all along the bar area (about 4 or 5 tables deep) are preferred. The tables on the right side of the room, have terrible cabeceo lines and awful lighting. You’re going to sit and die in this area. If you don’t want to dance, sit there. On Fri/Sat nights there will be tables on the lower landing as you walk in, and then the lower landing dance floor as well. These tables are like no man’s land because the moment you sit there, not only will no one know you exist, but you may as well be in out in the middle of nowhere. 🙁

Food ? The typical Argentine finger food is available, chief among them: Argentine Pizza (not what you’re used to), Empanadas, Medialunas, and the like. Coffee, tea, coke (not Pepsi and don’t ask), champagne, beer, wine (lots of wine), water, and oddly enough jugo exprimido (fresh squeezed orange juice)…prepared right there in front of you. Oh and if you want anything “con hielo” (with ice), it’ll come in a little metal bucket in almost unusable chunks…almost. This is true of most places in BsAs, not just La Viruta.

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The Dancing ? The quality of dance changes over the course of the night. First there are the ‘class’ dancers, those people that went to the classes, and they stick around for a little while about an hour or so. Then the tourist dancers show up and they stay for two sometimes three hours, and this is the bulk of the dancers until…about 2 am, the flood begins! Slowly, a trickle at first (due to the entrada) and then by 3 am it’s in full force they’re pouring in and that’s because the entrada at that point is free! Yup. At 3 am there is no entrada. So naturally there’s a line to get in. The quality of dance ? Insanely good at that point (3 to 3:30 am). Very good. Again this perception is based on what you see as or qualify as ‘Good’. Some will find it amazing, some will find it offputting and snobby, some will find it exclusionary, and some will find it an open feeding ground of possibilities. That last one requires that you’ve been in BsAs for a while and know the players in the room. You will find that at a certain point 3:30 – 4 am that the floor is packed, and tight close quarter dancing, even more so than you would at any other milonga is the order of the day. If you haven’t mastered this yet (lead or follow) it’s going to be even harder here. And the reason is….HELLO!!!! Again, it’s dark! 🙂 There is no room for boleos, ganchos, open colgadas, or flying legs anywhere. Leave that shit at home. There’s just no space for that here, unless it’s on a Sunday night and it’s closer to ‘closing’ time, which in that case you’ll see a bit more ‘vocabulary’ on display. This is all about proprioceptive dancing. Know it, learn it, live it, dance it. Walk, turn, patter, cross, sacada, single axis turn, sacada, turn, cross, ocho, walk some more…but not too far because there’s no space. At 3 am is when the party really starts happening. And for the next 2 to 3 hrs, in certain parts of the room, it’s like a war zone on the floor, dancing offensively, not defensively. You must be tight, you must keep things small, concise, as there’s no room for error here whatsoever! None. And while it may appear that no one is watching you, that’s not true. They’re all watching you, and at the same time no one cares. And in that room it’s impossible to stand out as ‘stellar’ unless it’s the opposite of stellar in which case you’ll stand out alright but not in the way that you want! There is a line of dance, and there is an outer track, but there’s also the inner zoo of dancing, hence the war zone sensation.

The video above was shot on a Sunday night at about 4:30 am.

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Why is this place so good ? Assuming you’ve got your collective shit together, it’s because it’s where the collectively good all come together and put on a show that is nothing short of amazing cornucopia of Tango expression in pure working form. It’s not beautiful, it’s not ‘fun’, this is where talent meets skill meets musical interpretation in the infinitely small to the proportionally grand. Which is a poetic way of saying, those clean dancers (lead or follow) who are light, nimble, vocabulary clear and clean, musically mastered and know their music note for note will meet other like minded souls. This is not a proving ground. It’s a provEN ground. Meaning those that meet others that have already have their collective shit together. This is like seeing your good, local dancers that you’re familiar with, only now put them in a room with 300 other people that are all above that same level … times 10! This is tango on steroids at 3 am!

Horacio puts on a good party (Horacio Godoy. Yes! That ‘Horacio’). His musical choices, if he’s DJing, are spot on. You should go, just for that alone. He’s usually behind the bar, rushing to do X, Y, and Z, and dances very little. But is friendly with those that he knows. Obviously. Do say ‘hello’.

Dress Code ? Ha! Not. Show up in whatever works for you. Dress to impress or comfort. Whatever works. The clothes don’t matter here, nor do the shoes. What matters here is the ability of the dancer in the shoes! As it should be anywhere. The clothes, the shoes, that’s just for show. What matters and what you’ll see is the mad skills of the dancers. If dressing to the 9’s is what does it for you, do that, but that noise only goes so far! And ultimately the clothes don’t matter at all. Skillz matter, mad skillz.

Safety. There are lockers (last time I was there, that may have changed), bring your own lock, they’re smallish. If you need to store something that’s your only safe space, otherwise don’t bring it, and keep whatever you want under the table and out of the way. Flashy and expensive can disappear in this room, all too easily.

Bathrooms. From the video above, there are 2 on either side of the room. You’ll head to the back of the room (where the bar is), and then for Men…it’s on the left up the stairs. And for women same thing.

The Mundials, and Special Events ? Do Not Bother Going to La Viruta during the Mundials. It’s insane. Tourist dancers everywhere and it’s a complete clusterfrak for navigation. Just. Don’t. Even. 🙁

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The Young and The Beautiful ? Yup. Truth be told, there is the young, the pretty, the beautiful in the room, lots of them. This also has the downside of adding to the rudeness factor that you’ll run into. It’s really easy to blame them for the ilk of the room because they seem to be prevalent and dominating the dance floor. True, to a degree. However, there is another quality to the room that you have look beyond this aspect. The young and rude are everywhere in Tango. La Viruta does bring them out in droves though. However, don’t let that discourage you though. They’re there, and so are you. Do your thing and they’ll do theirs. And let the chips fall where they may. 😉

The lights at the end ? One last thing you should know. If you’re caught up in the dancing part, and have lost track of time, because … well, you’ve been dancing until the wee hour. There is something that Horacio does with his lighting, first they’ll go to red, and these are LED lights, so the entire room is awash in yellow for a tanda, then red for a tanda or two, then they’ll all go to blue in the span of a tanda. And then for the last tanda (ish) they’ll go through all three, and then for the ultimo…black. That’s how you know the Milonga is over and it’s about 5 or 6 am! Then the lights come up and you have one more song in normal light. Then the song is over and there’s lots of kissing and hugging and goodbyes, cabs outside going this way and that, and the crowd outside afterwards is nothing short of a who’s who of BsAs Tango. You can quite literally go, and know people in the room and never know that they were there until you see them on the side walk at 5 am!

The Bakery Down The Street ? While there are Medialunas at 4 am at La Viruta, and they’re very good, there is another Bakery (Panaderia) that ‘serves’ Medialunas. This place ‘serves’, by the dozen, read that as ‘sells’ from the backdoor, freshly made Medialunas. And they’re like crack-cocaine…OMG!!!! There’s nothing in the world like freshly made Medialunas. There’s a particular point in the night at about 3:30 or 4 am when they open the oven and the scent of Medialunas wafts  towards La Viruta, 2 blocks over…and it is absolute heaven. OMG!

Contact for reservations -> 47750160. The address is Armenia 1366. There are 3 major bus stops that are close by. Yyou’re within walking distance of either Villa Malcolm (or Avenida Cordoba) or Salon Canning (on Avenida Scalabrini Ortiz). Like as in 10 minutes, at a slow pace. There are a constant stream of cabs, constant…so you’re not going to be stranded at all. 

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