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And the Award for Milonga Most Like Buenos Aires Goes to....


And here's why.

Let me tell you what was so great about going to milongas in Buenos Aires, which is what I also see at...yes...say it...Cell Space.

People actually wanted to be there.

They were part of real life. They weren't sacred temples. They weren't black-tie galas. They were third spaces, the places where you go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. Milongas were not separate from life, they were life. Not for artists and geniuses and the privileged, but for everybody. They were where you went to be yourself with your buddies.

They were full of positive energy.

Hey, it's you! It's me! We're here! Let's enjoy this night! People were relaxed. Everybody danced, and with many people. People wanted to dance. People connected easily to the music. People weren't stepping outside of their comfort zone, they were stepping inside their comfort zone. People were happy.

Technique was not the point.

Sure there were people who cared about technique, there and here. And yes, if you totally let go of technique you flop onto the floor like a jellyfish, there and here. But they understood that “hey, look at how perfectly I put my foot right here,” is merely the plate that you put the food on. The name of the game is enjoyment, sharing, and connection. Celebration. Catharsis. Sex.

They were casual and accessible.

People wore their real clothes. Maybe the women wore something a little bit nice, but like what you would wear to a práctica here. I painstakingly brought only my plainest clothes and still couldn't wear half of them because they were much too fancy. Jeans happen. T-shirts happen. Football jerseys happen. Untucked shirts absolutely happen. The men wore whatever shoes happened to be on their feet. Because this is real life, and this is what we've got. —And to this estadosunidensa, they were really cheap! They cost between half and a quarter of what they do here. Which is probably because the average porteño makes between half a quarter of what he would here, if not less, but to me it had the accidental effect of making milongas appear more socialist in demographic outreach. More universal. More like the low cost of Cell Space.

They were for people of various age groups.

Yes, at Obelisco I was 40 to 50 years younger than all the men. And yes, at la Viruta I was surrounded by a huge glut of insanely hot, gorgeous, sexy, beautiful young things and kinda-young things and thought, “here is where I should shop for all those men I promised to bring home in my suitcase! If only I could support a cocaine addiction to help me stay awake at these ungodly hours!” But in general, for the milongas held during classic milonga hours, people of most ages showed up most nights. At 38, I felt ordinary and normal and like I had a range of ages of people with whom to dance and socialize. Here...we have a lot of milongas like Obelisco...and while Cell Space does skew in a Virutaesque direction, you can still find people who have left their 20s behind. Having some young energy helps make a party go. And it reminds us of an idea easily forgotten here, that I eventually had to re-stumble upon after a few too many dances at Obelisco: you have to want to embrace your partner! At every milonga in Buenos Aires, the first and last reason anyone was dancing with anyone was because they wanted to. Because it would bring them enjoyment. Because....

….They felt good.

End of story. Game, match, and set.