Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Some milongas: Salon Canning

Salon Canning is one enormous room. I don't know why it feels like a room: normally a room this big would be a hall. Perhaps because it's square, and halls tend to be rectangular, but probably because it really looks like a room scaled up at least 10 times: it has room-like proportions.

In the centre of this vast room is a beautiful polished hardwood parquet floor. Considering the size of the room it's not that big; I'd guess it's at most six metres square, surrounded by tables and chairs. Walking into Canning feels great because of the space, and standing on that dance floor in the middle of that room is an experience in itself.

As usual with these venues there's a different milonga every night of the week with a different name and run by different organisers, but it would be hard to differentiate between them. I've always visited on Friday nights. The pre-milonga class on Friday is taught by Ana Maria Schapira, and if she's away teaching in Europe, Alicia Pons takes over. They teach really useful, basic 'milonguero' close-hold tango. Both speak some English and have teaching assistants who will help.

Seating is by tables: men and women who don't know each other won't be sat at the same table, although they might be seated at adjacent tables. (You are always shown to a table in this part of the world, although if you arrive early for the class you can choose between the tables that aren't booked.) Since the effective cabeceo area is less than a quarter of the entire space, it's normal for guys to wander around, looking for friends or for glances in their direction. This occasionally (I'm told) does get a bit intrusive, and because of the size of the venue it's harder to pick out and contact the really good dancers. Once again, visiting guys might find it hard to make eye-contact, although visiting ladies might not find it in short supply. &, I'm told, they might find the quality of dancing variable. Best to go with a group of friends.

It's a real treat when you do get onto that floor. The dancing is generally good. You can usually assume that you can take a step, perhaps rather a small one, in any direction without encountering any obstacle, which means you can dance quite freely, albeit on a small scale. Once again, the 'second lane' is elusive: there's the line of dance and then there's everyone else inside it. The line of dance gets crowded and slow-moving, but it's worth persevering with a 'lap of honour': it's a test of skill to keep turning on the spot and inching forwards. At the start of a tanda one evening I turned and was startled to find, hardly a foot behind us, an old couple, Pocho and Nelly. There was another couple hardly a foot in front of us. His eye caught mine: it seemed to say 'You're doing fine! Just don't come any closer.' Here they are, the whole beautiful floor at Canning to themselves.

There's a good article and some excellent photos here. But I'm not sure when Natalie Laruccia found it this empty.

Video thanks to 2xtango.

1 comment:

jantango said...

There is a milonga every day of the week in Salon Canning with four different organizers, so each milonhs is different.

Omar Viola runs Parakultural on Monday and Friday. Tables are arranged for socializing in groups, and there is always some entertainment during the night.

Damian Boggio is in charge of Tuesdays when he also handles the music. The cortina music is very loud, and the tandas are often unfamiliar music or undanceable. It's chaotic with people standing at the bar and walking down the aisles.

There is a new organizer for Thursday which can't seem to get going. This is the only milonga I haven't attended, so I can't comment.

Dario Rodriguez and his daughter Patricia run Wednesday & Sunday evenings when milongueros show up. They also have Saturday night when half of the dancers are foreigners. Dario and his late wife began holding dances in Canning 30 years ago. All chairs are arranged facing the dance floor with 2 or 3 per table. The cabeceo is possible from any corner of the room to the opposite side. The best dancers have been regulars for years and are seated in the front row tables.

Canning has the best dance floor in Buenos Aires. There is a small bump in one corner opposite the bar. They joke that La Gallega (Dario's late wife) is buried there.