After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Milongueros For Hire

Currently there's a tango buzz about taxi dancers/milongueros for hire. It seems to be a favorite topic because it comes up regularly in milonga conversations and on the internet. Now we all have a game we play in the milongas: pick out the taxi dancers.

The other night in Gricel there was a large tour group of Americans from the east coast, mostly older women. Soon after they settled in in front of the bar, a horde of young men, many barely out of their teens, came in and joined the group. We watched the action with interest from our table nearby. The boys were badly dressed and didn't know how to dance; they looked uncomfortable, but no doubt were very glad to be earning a few pesos. The women seemed happy to be dancing tango in Buenos Aires. So what's the problem? It's certainly none of my business, plus it afforded those at our table a chance to gossip and stare at the unlikely couples on the floor.

What would have been more appropriate for this group would be hiring older dancers and milongueros. But they cost more--$50 US instead of perhaps $7 that the boys earned. Obviously a lot of money was being made by the organizers. They're not bringing tourists to Argentina for their health, of course; they're trying to run a business. It's just a shame that the tourists pay so much for so little. Sure, without taxi dancers they might not have danced that night, but if the tour organizers really wanted to give them a good time and value for their money, they would have contracted with older men who dance well to partner with the ladies. You know, like they do on cruise ships.

Because Ruben sometimes does milonga accompaniment, people have asked me if he and the other milongueros are ashamed to be doing it. Heck no, is my reply. It's honest work, they need the money, furthermore it helps the ladies who hire them to know what good tango is all about. Ruben wants to show the best about tango; this gives him pleasure, and really is his mission in life.

For more on this topic, check out an earlier post:

(The beautiful painting above is by Dvora Kanegis.)


Eva said...

I think the whole idea of Taxi dancers is wonderful. Really kills many birds with one stone. Makes for great practice time with a good leader, help non-Spanish speaking visiter to feel more at ease and good company if you're traveling alone. My last taxidancer was also a teacher that came highly recommended. I learned alot that evening. It's certainly costs a lot less than a private lesson with in NYC.

TangoCherie, Malena and I are going to be in BsAs next month. Hopefully, we'll have the pleasure of seeing you dance at the milongas. ; )


tangocherie said...

Hi Eva,
Please contact me when you're in town so we can meet at a milonga!
Hasta pronto!

LoLo said...

$7 is so much? Or are you saying these ladies pay much more than that to their organizers who only give $7 to the boys?

A 70-year-old lady friend of mine says she has been to BA four times in recent years and paid for middle-aged taxi dancers by whom she was well satisfied, $20 for the night. $50 must be the genuine deluxe?

tangocherie said...

Saludos, Lolo!

Yes, it's correct that I mean to say that the ladies pay a lot more to the organizers for the taxi dance service but the boys earn very little themselves. Sometimes when a tour is advertised in other countries, a promise is made that there will be local dancers in the milongas especially to dance with the group, and the price is included in the overall package. So the cheaper the taxi, the more the organizer makes.

If your friend paid a milonguero $20 US for the night, it must have been quite a while ago.
For an older, excellent dancer, $50 - $60 for 3 hours is normal.

Anonymous said...

Cherie, I think this is one of those matters of personal taste. While I cannot see myself (at this point in time, anyway) hiring a dancer for the night, that may change as I age and my, um, "center of gravity" hangs lower...

I also understand that some people may have a very hard time getting dances in this very different environment, and want to have some sort of "guarantee". Especially if they've saved up for a long time to make the trip.

My only real concern is that the better dancers will cease social dancing and will only dance with you if you pay them. Then it would be a tragedy.

tangocherie said...


I agree if the best social dancers stop dancing for pleasure and start selling "it" to tourists, it would be a terrible tragedy.

But I don't think that will happen. Milongueros above all prize their freedom and right to choose, which they would lose if they only danced for money.

I believe (and God knows I hope) that as long as a woman stays attractive, has a pleasant personality, and dances well, she will be invited to dance in Buenos Aires.

Not everyone wants to be hired help.

Tina said...

Very well-written, and I heartily agree. :-)

I think the concept of hiring an older milonguero is fabulous - think of how much a person can learn from them even when sitting :-)