Tango La Nacional at La Nacional, the venerable Spanish social club in Chelsea, Manhattan, is a milonga (tango dance party) that is as close to Buenos Aires as you can get in New York City.
The tango of Buenos Aires is special because most people can really dance, dancers respond to the music as a group like a school of fish, and the codes or traditions create a very fun game that isn’t really played anywhere else in the world we know of (maybe Montevideo, Uruguay or Medellín, Colombia).
Tango La Nacional
Intermediate class from 7-8 pm
Dancing gets going around 9pm
Performances are around 11 pm
Dancing continues until closing around 2am
NYC’s tango community is LGBTQ+ friendly.
Performers are usually excellent. Tango La Nacional is an important stop for touring artists passing through New York. Dancing on the best floor is a mark of distinction.
The dancing gets really good after the performances or after midnight. It’s almost like two different milongas. We wouldn’t consider this a beginner’s milonga. Many of NYC’s best dancers dance here. The DJs are excellent.
It’s fun to dance tango, but even if you don’t know how to dance, it’s fun to watch. Notice how people position themselves to get invited and how they invite. Notice the different styles of dancing. A good tango is a profound opening between the couple. So people tend to reveal themselves.
You may see people (mostly Americans) in the tango fantasy of a Buenos Aires bordello. They may dress like the Addams Family, but it’s all good (been there, done that). Some guys live in the fantasy of the compradito (Buenos Aires gangster). They tend to wear hats and scowl a lot (been there, done that and only smile now).
There may also be classical ballerinas from New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre in the room. We know several. There may also be tango champions on the floor. When you see really good dancers, watch how light they are and how they fully express every step and every motion. It’s really beautiful to watch.
Notice how different the Argentines and Gringos are. Argentines don’t dance too much. They sit and drink and talk and watch. Very senior Argentines may offer you galletas (Argentine cookies). Try them. They are delicious.
Every tango room has a dynamic flow. For the best experience, check it out when you come in. The hard core dancers usually sit at the tables. El Muro (the wall) of people who want to be invited to dance is on the left as you enter. A lot of small talk and invitations happen in the crowd around the bar, and in front of the dance floor.
There is a good bar. You can get Fernet and Coke which is popular with dancers in Villa Urquiza, Buenos Aires because it lifts you up. The champagne popular in Central Buenos Aires brings you down. Chin-Chin!
You may be able to order food from the Spanish tapas restaurant downstairs.
Juan Pablo Vicente and Omar organize the milonga. (Hey Juan Pablo, you unsubscribed from our email. ¡Que malo eres! We’re telling your old girlfriends (tiene mil novias). Just kidding. We love you guys and cover you anyway.) The organizers create the energy of the milonga. If you need anything, ask Juan Pablo or Omar. They are there to make sure you have a good time.
New York’s Most Traditional Milonga
There is no such thing as a truly traditional milonga in New York City, but this has been run by Argentines for over twenty years and is New York’s most traditional milonga.
It’s New York City, so most anything goes, but this is a place to dress up and go early to snack and drink with friends. It’s not a place to dance like you’re doing martial arts in the Olympics. Those kinds of dancers may be quietly invited to leave. They really protect the floor and that’s one of the things that makes La Nacional great.
Few New Yorkers understand or respect the cabaceo (the traditional nod or winked invitation to dance), but it usually works at Tango La Nacional. Personally speaking, if you won’t take the cabaceo, I won’t dance with you (publisher of Tango Beat®, formerly the world’s most popular tango magazine on the web, and the predecessor of New York Latin Culture Magazine.)
We know most of NYC’s tango organizers, but if we could only dance at one place, it would be Tango La Nacional.