iMilonga? is that what you call it?

We set off for Plaza Bohemia in good spirits, we have not seen Gloria this trip, and expected the usual welcome, although we did not expect there to be a crowd we did expect a milonga.

Our first problem was leaving the subte, the escalator was out of action, but we wandered around and eventually found another way out. We set off down Corrientes and the first thing that occurred to me was, we could take a taxi home straight up Corrientes. This was, of course, absolute rubbish, Corrientes runs into town not out. It was at this point I realised we were going the wrong way, all that turning underground had disoriented me, so we turned again and set off once more for Maipu.

When we arrived at 444 there was a crowd outside and they were shutting the door. “you are too late” they said. We said “but we have come for La Susheta, it starts at ten” We were then informed that Gloria had stopped about two months ago, so much for the tango guide.

Monday night is pretty flat, that is why normally we go to an early dance, and now we are left with little choice. We could go to Gricel, but we do not know the bus to take from here. There are then only two choices, La Catedral or Canning. Canning tonight is Parakultural, they mess about too much, have demos films announcements and we never enjoy it. So thinking we have nothing to loose, and that it is very close to home, we decided on La Catedral. Even though we had been told it was all nuevo here we thought at least we could have a dance.

It started well enough just ten pesos entrada, although the entrance looked more like Strangeways prison than a dance hall. We had to climb stairs to get to the dance, there was a lift but it was out of action and the stairs were half concrete and half steel, as if the building had started to be demolished and they had changed their minds.

At the top of the stairs I realised that they had not, they just never got around to finishing the job. You could see right up to the roof structure, any sign of finish had been totally removed and the place was filled with rubbish. Cable drums for tables, milk crates for seats and planks for benches. Nobody came to give us a seat so we chose our own, bought a beer and sat down. The dance floor was an utter disgrace, I kept my street shoes on, but Viv who had brought Comme il Faut shoes with her had real difficulty as they got stuck in all the cracks and ridges.

The music was not constructed in any sort of tanda, if you can imagine Canaro and Pugliese played back to back. It was hard to know when to dance and when to sit down. Strangely though we were quite enjoying it up to this point. The floor was abysmal but there were few dancing and mostly they were trying new things or teaching on the floor. But because there was room we just danced past.

Someone came and started arranging chairs at the back of the dance floor and left a guitar there. We thought we would have live tango but the chairs were moved to the front and everyone got off the floor. The guitarists were good to be fair and if they had allowed it we would have enjoyed dancing to their milongas, but they did not allow us room and never said we could dance.

So we sat there getting hungry. There was food on so I went for a menu, there was quite a choice, so when we decided I went to order. The guy at the kitchen said we could not have this food, it was the delivery menu and took me back to the bar and gave me the menu from the bar. Now I know I am just a stupid extranjero, but apart from the prices which were slightly dearer but did not include the delivery charge, I could see no difference. So we sat with the new menu but no one came to take our order, but we did notice that it said at the top that non of our food contains meat. After last nights vegetarian meal we thought better of it and just went hungry.

At this point the guitarists had stopped and the folk singers had taken over, suddenly we were transported back to 1975 and the Mucky Duck folk club. Viv was now in fits of laughter, she would have been able to contain herself but then they started reading poetry, in spanish, of course. Now Viv was close to wetting herself, tears were running down her face and her nose was running. Everyone else in the room looked deadly serious.

Already we had offended looks from locals, some had left in disgust. It was time to leave before we were thrown out and possibly acosted in some dark alley for failing to show respect for something we did not understand.

So if you want to dance tango whatever your style, I suggest you try somewhere else. I do not know what you would call La Catedral but whatever you call it, don’t call it a milonga.

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7 Comments

Filed under Argentina, milonga, Tango

7 responses to “iMilonga? is that what you call it?

  1. Poetry reading is probably better than a pair of tramps blowing across the tops of partially filled bottles in a completely tuneless way and miming/clowning goodness knows what. At least the night I went the second act were a decent tango orchestra and it was possible to dance to them.
    There were people smoking actually inside Salón Canning on my last visit before I came home. Surprising really since they had recently done a good job of moving the smokers from the entrance passageway to outside. Even El Pipa had been told to put his pipe out.

  2. tangobob

    Mark you did tell me so, but nothing I have read said anything about karaoki.
    I have just read Cherie’s post and Janis’s mail and I can tell you,it still is a fire trap, not only that but they smoke in there in contravention of the law.
    I could live with the bad choices of music, bad dancing and even the uneven floor, after all that is what we get at home. But when the dancing stopped and we had a folk and poetry evening, well, it was just too much.
    There are as many definitions of what makes a milonga as there are milongueros, but I would guess that every one of them has, tango music and dancing as the main ingredient.

  3. tangobob

    Cherie
    Everyone has warned me about La Catedral, but it is only three blocks from me and it would be a shame if I did not try for myself. Nobody told me that Gloria is not running milongas anymore though, had we been going from home we probably would have ended up at Gricel. Still it was great blogging material and an experience not to be missed.

  4. Ha ha, can I say “I told you so”? At least Viv had a good laugh out of La Catedral and you got an entertaining blog post from it.

  5. You are so right–I wouldn’t call it a milonga, but definitely an experience! I’m quite surprised that Janis didn’t warn you beforehand!

    Here’s what I wrote years ago about a visit I made probably in 1999:

    http://tangocherie.blogspot.com/2007/01/la-catedral-se-abrio-el-cielo-y-bajaron.html

  6. tangobob

    I have had warnings before, but we had little choice left, and now, at least, we have seen it for ourselves.

  7. jantango

    I would have warned you about La Catedral if you had asked me. This way you got a good story after seeing it for yourself. It’s only a milonga when there are milongueros! Now you can add it to your list of places to skip in BsAs.

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