I've been down in Buenos Aires for almost two weeks now.
In fact, I'm about to head home. But I feel like I should try to capture a few thoughts before I do. Here, I'll talk about the various dances I went to, and give my impressions. [update: I'm actually finishing this post months later. I write slowly.]
Milonga de los Consegrados (Saturday Evening, 4-10 or so)
I came to this dance my very first night in Argentina (and again a week later). I was hosted by Cherie Magnus and Ruben Aybar, who were delightful. The milonga itself was gorgeous: a large open space (an old ballroom or theatre, I think), with a buttery and soft wooden floor. It's a traditional milonga -- close embrace, full of milongueros, and occasional tandas of non-tango music. A mostly older crowd (I was among the youngest at 35). I had a great time! It's semi-formal with seating (men mostly one one side, women mostly on the other), but people were both friendly and flexible, and there were many mixed groups.
This was a popular place for some of the young professional dancer crowd. It's a bar with two floors; while I was there (the off-season) they had salsa below and tango above, though I'm told that when more crowded, both top and bottom are full of tango dancers. There's a small set of tables around the floor, with the bar along one wall; a nonsense video is projected at one end of the room.
Getting dances here took a little while, as people were more typically socializing with friends than really focusing on dancing; but I did have quite a few lovely dances. There was also a lot of great dancing to watch. Generally salon-style dancing, but good attention paid to available space (and generally a high level of skill), so there was little trouble with collisions. Not a friendly floor for beginners so much, though.
This was a very different venue. Inside a crumbling old place (perhaps actually an old cathedral), the inside looked like a cross between a yard sale and a dance floor. Tables and a kitchen against one end, an altar of junk at the other, with various pieces of art up around the walls. I've heard about some fascinating pieces of performance art happening here, though I only saw dancing. Dark, intimate, and somewhat grungy feeling. The floor was soft, with divots filled in by the sawdust created by wearing the floor down.
I saw an awesome chacarera here; a sort of mixed-play dance between three people, with attention swirling between the various pairs.
Random notes: be careful on the stairs, they have some metal patches that are slick on a wet night (One friend slipped and fell). Also, there was an open wi-fi signal, which surprised me when my phone beeped at me to let me know that email had updated.
I don't have much to add to these places, but went to each a couple of times, and highly enjoyed them. Both Canning and El Beso have a pretty 'traditional' feel, with specific seating, and lots of Cabaceo. Villa MAlcolm was more relaxed, but I didn't love the set-up of the dance floor (it is hard to see from most of the tables).
La Viruta (Almost every day)
Viruta is always the last place left open, and so people end up there often (at least, people who are addicted to tango and want one more dance for the night). It's like a cafeteria, but dark and hot. I enjoyed it, although it wasn't my favorite -- the dim lighting, and size of the venue, means that it's very hard to catch someone's gaze from across the room -- you have to look to those nearest you, or try to walk around, which I prefer not to do.
Milonga de los Madres
This had just started when we went (it might have been the opening night, or maybe the second of them), at a 'revolutionary' cafe which featured information on the 'madres', an organization of women speaking out about vanished sons. (I'm not totally clear on this history, as my spanish was not good enough to totally follow the explanation we heard). There is a red and black color scheme to the place, and it was quite visually striking.
Perhaps because it was so new, there were very few dancers; however, the organizer (Laura) was very lovely to dance with, and the orchestra they had perform was excellent. The pizza was also very good.