Madrid Tango Dancing Time Warp – La Milonga del Centro

by Niels Klok

Tango in MadridI have never attended any dance class in my entire life, so what in the world would I be doing at a tango salon? Tango not even being español… shouldn’t we be going to a flamenco joint?

Those were the sentiments that I entered Casa de Guadalajara with, dragged along by friends who had, years ago, caught the tango bug and were unstoppable in their quest for the “perfect salon”. An unremarkable entrance in a corner of Plaza de Santa Ana leads to a flight of stairs, with a lady on the first floor cashing the entrance fee (€ 7).

Then, a time machine – parting a red curtain, we enter another room and another era. This must be Buenos Aires, a few decades ago. The room is dimly lit, chairs and tables have been pushed aside to create a dance floor, and there is an older Argentinean “master of ceremonies” pushing buttons on a laptop from time to time (the one big anachronism).

There are men and women sitting against the wall, huddled around small tables – it is still early. Interestingly enough, these men and women span many generations; it does not appear to be a strictly aging Argentinean affair. The first couples are on the dance floor, still a little hesitant.

At midnight, the floor is crowded, and it is striking how beautiful and passionate the dancing is amid the logistics of getting all these couples to move in counter-clockwise direction on such a small space. Most people are rather dressed-up, especially the ladies in their high-heeled dancing shoes, who are forced to sit against the wall sometimes due to the shortage of male partners.

There is a bar on the other side of the curtain, and a waiter maneuvering among the crowd with the occasional tapa. People come and go through the curtain, either drained and sweaty from giving it their all, or refreshed and ready to have another go.

Leaving at 1 AM, we feel like deer caught in headlights among the crowds on Plaza de Santa Ana. It’s easy to forget that there’s a world out there when you are behind the curtain.

La Milonga del Centro, Saturdays from 22:30 to 2:30
Organizer: Marcos Iaffa Sancho (tel. 600 681 882)
Metro: Sol, Anton Martin. Casa de Guadalajara, Plaza de Santa Ana 15, 1st floor. See map below:

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About Katie

Katie is an English teaching assistant working at a bilingual public school in the center of Madrid.
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