Are you ready to attend the milonga? The answer might surprise you.

(This post is purely my opinion, and I speak only for myself.)

Last weekend during a quick stop in Montreal, I danced with a leader who’d been taking classes for about seven months.

(Sometimes, I like to boost the “tango karma”!)

Earlier that day, I’d seen him at the same studio buying a tango dress for his girlfriend; walking out, she looked happy, and he looked stoked that he’d gotten her something that she clearly liked. Later at the milonga, he’d tried cabeceo-ing me, but he was too close, so I looked away. I waited until the music was not-so-demanding and the floor was emptier. I cabeceo’d him from a good distance; he tip-toed his way towards my seat in case he’d gotten it wrong!

The tanda was pleasant. Really. He was a little self-deprecating about his skills, but not so much that it defined him. Between songs, we chatted about his visit to Montreal and where he was from. While dancing, he paused a lot, he walked a lot, and his embrace was decent. He showed that he was enjoying his time with me.

It probably helps that his girlfriend is a more experienced dancer. He’s been well-taught about how to be at the milonga.

He could walk and lead some ochos and the cross, and he was only ok when it came to finding the beat. But he was more “milonga-ready” than some dancers I know who’ve been learning for longer and have more moves.


There’s some debate over how many classes a student should take before going to their first milonga. Everyone is different.

I made fast friends with my first tango teacher, and after 2 months of class and practice, he took me to my first milonga: the Saturday night milonga at a festival. It wasn’t scary because I was with my friend, who’d started teaching at my university simply to “grow” dancers he could go to milongas and prácticas with (my school was about 2 hours away from the nearest tango community, and gas was expensive for students on a budget). I think he taught me what I needed to enjoy the milonga on my own, so he didn’t have to baby-sit me.

I wouldn’t say a student knows enough after three or four classes to keep themselves and their partners safe in the line of dance. But I also couldn’t say, “You need x amount of classes,” either. I definitely wouldn’t discourage a student from going to a milonga if their curiosity pushes them. It’s that curiosity that drives people to explore and eventually fall in love with social tango.


I think the answer to “Is so-and-so ready to attend milongas?” is more about attitude than actual skill.

You might be ready for the milonga if you know the basics of milonga etiquette and if at least two of the following apply to you:

  • You have an curious, open, and positive approach towards your skills and those of other dancers.
  • You’re ok to sit and chat or enjoy the music, and watch others dance.
  • You enjoy regular practice outside of class, whether it’s alone or with a partner (be honest re: the words ENJOY and REGULAR).
  • You see the milonga as a place to take pleasure in what you have learned, rather than a place to show what you have learned. (As I write that last one, I know I’ve gone unexpectely into the deep end!)

If a milonga is a tango dance party, you’ll at least enjoy the “party” aspect, regardless of what happens on the dance floor. You’re more likely to come back for more and allow your community to get to know you. You’ll be relaxed in the embrace, and whether more experienced dancers enjoy dancing with you will be up to them.

If a few of the following feel familiar:

  • You think that you’re a terrible burden to dance with because you’re a beginner, and are super self-critical.
  • You don’t like to practice; you just want to dance.
  • You need your teachers or advanced dancers to dance with you so that you can have fun.
  • People keep telling you to relax your arms or that your embrace feels hard or that (god forbid) your embrace hurts them.
  • You believe that the number of tandas danced is positively correlated to success (or believe there is such a thing as “success” at the milonga, for that matter).

You might not be ready to go to the milonga. Tension (mental or physical) can create unpleasant experiences for both you and your partner.

That’s not to say that you can’t go to the milonga if these thoughts pop into your head or if your embrace is a work in progress; if that were the case, milongas would be empty! Most tango dancers have struggled with these negative issues, and continue to do so. Fortunately, these attitudes can be unlearned with experience and by acknowledging that learning to move well isn’t a fast or quick pursuit.

(One side effect of having a good attitude is that it’ll change your approach to your classes. You won’t be so hyperfocused on achievement and you’ll try things and take risks. You’ll take responsibility for your enjoyment and learning, rather than depending on teachers to “download” their knowledge into your brain.)

To beginners: Only you can decide when you are ready to attend a milonga. But I wouldn’t leave it too long and let your first milonga become this “big deal” that you have to be prepared for. It’s just a social gathering with dancing in middle!


Let’s be honest: a small tango community needs you as much as you need them. Approaching the milonga with a good attitude can innoculate you from behaving in ways that turn other dancers off.

In the past year, I’ve seen and heard the following at milongas:

  • A leader shaming a beginning follower’s skill level, saying, “You’re not very good. All I can lead you is box steps for the rest of the tanda.”
  • After one song, a follower who’s not been dancing for very long saying, “I. Simply. Cannot. Understand. What. You. Are. Trying. To. Lead. Me,” to an intermediate leader, as if he were a complete dum-dum.
  • A follower describing in minute detail an “amazing” tanda she’d had at the milonga the night before with someone else, while I was leading her at a milonga. (The fact that I didn’t have her full attention as we were dancing bothered me.)
  • A leader saying to someone, “Do you want me to sit in your lap? Get out of my seat,” at a milonga without assigned seating.

These are isolated incidents. I just put them up as examples of how attitude can affect people’s experience at the milonga. For myself, I would decline to dance with people who behave this way, and it has nothing to do with their steps or technique.


Why the long-ass blog post?

We’re getting ready to have another Milonga Primera (“first milonga”) for our beginner students. The evening includes a Q&A about milonga etiquette and then dancing, with teachers to guide them. It’s a way to celebrate the hard work of our beginner students, and it’s the event that I wished I could’ve attended when I was just starting out.

Ottawa dancers: You can find details here.

But even if your school or community doesn’t offer a beginner-friendly event, don’t despair.

Start going to prácticas to get used to how the dance floor flows. Talk to people in your class and arrange to go to prácticas as a group so you at least have people to sit with and dance with. Be sure to ask your teachers for help, too – that’s what the práctica is for!

When you do decide to go to milongas, dive into the social side of it. If milongas are about dancing with your friends, you have to make friends first. Sit with different people and ask questions, or park yourself next to the water or snack table and say “Hi.” There’s usually one or two curious people who will come up to you simply because they haven’t seen you before. Be nice – because hopefully you will be socializing with this group of people for years to come – and be open to the unexpected.

For the most part, tango dancers look out for each other – so let your new friends help you enjoy!

Where are tango dancers supposed to get tango shoes in Ottawa?

Most of this information pertains to women’s shoes, but all of these vendors sell shoes for men as well.

So you’re ready to invest in a pair of Argentine tango shoes. In this post, we’ll give you some tips for choosing your first pair and some links to local(ish) retailers.

For all of our students:

To protect the floor at each of our venues, we require our students to wear “indoor shoes,” meaning that they aren’t ever used for outdoor wear.

For women:

When you first start tango, we simply advise you to wear shoes that strap securely to your feet, have non-marking soles, and are easy to pivot in.

Wear the heel height that is comfortable for you. You don’t have to wear 9 cm heels to be a “real” tango dancer. As you progress in your dance, you can wear higher heels.

(Or not! At Siempre Tango Ottawa, we don’t have a problem with women wearing flats for practice or even to dance socially. Others may think differently, but the priority is taking care of your feet for a long dancing life.)

If you find a pair of ballroom or salsa shoes that works for you, stay with those. However, shoes made specifically for tango shoes are different:

  • The metal shank in between the insole and the outsole is shorter than that for ballroom shoes to provide flexibility.
  • The padding on top of the insole tends to be thicker.
  • Stabilility in tango shoes comes from attaching the insole, outsole, and heel with both glue and nails throughout.
  • Tango shoes are built to be balanced, meaning that if you stand them up alone on a surface, they shouldn’t tip over or list to one side.

Investing in quality tango shoes means that they are more stable and less likely to pinch you. They should fit you well right out of the box; most of the time, having to “break in” dance shoes means that they didn’t suit you in the first place.

For men:

When you first start learning tango, you won’t need to pivot so much, so shoe choice is less of an issue. However, as you continue your tango journey, you will actually need to pivot to lead turns and to do more interesting moves.

If you need to force a pivot, save your knees and invest in dance shoes!

Where to buy shoes:

Practice flats and men’s shoes

I like to support local businesses, so you can find jazz shoes, ballet flats, dance sneakers, and men’s dance shoes at Brio or Malabar.

(Got another dance shoe store in Ottawa that you like? Share in the comments, please!)

High heels and custom shoes for men and women

There is no dedicated tango shoe seller in Ottawa for now. For the most part, we turn to our friends in Montreal to buy new shoes. The vendors that we mention below sell men’s and women’s shoes.

(While it is possible to order shoes from most brands online, we suggest that you try shoes on in person, at least at first, particularly if you have a differently-shaped foot. Which is, to be honest, everyone!)

Many of our teachers wear the brand Turqouise.Our friend Elda has a shopfront in Montreal at Montango on Sundays. If she doesn’t have something, and you see it on the website, order through her for the best price / shipping. You can reliably reach her on Facebook.

Our friends at Stella Mary Creations also often come to Ottawa to sell D’Raso shoes. Stella sets up shop at Tango Social Club in Montreal on most Saturday nights. You can make a custom order also and contact her on Facebook to make a request.

Line Desrosiers is another shoe seller in Montreal. Her shop is called Tango Sublime. She sells Italian brands like Tangolera (known for the extra padding in the sole), Madame Pivot, and Regina. She is also on Facebook.

We’ve seen advertisements for KN DanceShop in Gatineau. They specialise in Paoul brand shoes. If you’ve given them a try, please feel free to comment.

We hope you find this information useful!

UPDATED Aug. 14: Our Tuesday Milonga is on the Road this Summer!

Because our fave venue at allsaints Event Space is being used as a film location for several weeks, the Tuesday Milonga is following a modified schedule.

July 16 and 30, and August 27:

We will be hosting a fun, intimate milonga at Bistro Alégria on:

July 16 (6:30 – 10:30 PM)
and
July 30 (doors open at 6:30 PM, music goes from 7 – 11 PM)
and
August 27 (doors open at 6:30 PM, music goes from 7 – 11 PM)

Parking: At 15 Leduc Street behind Bistro Alégria. Free after 5:00 PM Monday to Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday.

There will be tapas for sale, and the bar is open. Come dance with us after work in Gatineau this month!

July 23:

We are offering a special workshop on Back Sacadas:

When: 7:00 – 8:15 PM
Where: 235 Montreal Road
How much: $25 per person

Space for 3 to 4 couples max. Please contact Francis to reserve your spot soon.

August 6, 13, and 20:

It’s time to bring tango back to the Byward Market. We’ll be at Alpha Art Gallery (531 Sussex Drive), from 7:30 to 11:00 PM. Cover is $10 / $8 for full-time university students.

Special Request

Please enter Alpha through the rear entrance, which you can access by taking Clarendon Lane and passing through the courtyard shared by different restaurants. You will see a sitting area where you can change your shoes and place your bags.

UPDATED: Our Sunday Práctica is moving temporarily this July and August.

Bate Hall will be used for a filming project this summer, so we have found an alternative venues for some upcoming prácticas.

Come experience one of our favourite floors in the city at the Ottawa Dance Directive’s Studio B (2 Daly Avenue). The práctica is at its usual time, from 7:00 – 9:30 PM.

(This venue change also applies to the Tango 3 class that precedes the práctica at 6:00 PM.)

  • July 21 – Guided práctica
  • July 28 – Goodbye practilonga for Melina Mistral
  • August 4 – Guided práctica
  • August 11 – Guided práctica
  • August 18 – Guided práctica
  • August 25 – Guided práctica

Directions to the room

To reach Studio B, enter Arts Court from the main Daly Ave. entrance and turn left after the reception desk. Pass through the double doors.

  • You can take Elevator A to the 2nd floor. Look for signs for ODD (Ottawa Dance Directive). Turn left getting off the elevator.
  • You can walk through the door labeled “EXIT” and enter the stairwell through the door marked D. Go all the way up to “2nd Floor A” and you will see the ODD to your right.
  • Don’t worry: we will have signs everywhere directing you!

Parking suggestions

You can use paid parking at Rideau Centre or the Novotel, but it’s we suggest taking advantage of free weekend street parking east of Arts Court and around Byward Market. Try Nicholas, Daly, Cumberland, Wilbrod, Dalhousie, Besserer, and Stewart. (Use Parkopedia and enter the date and time window to find options.)

Also, free parking at City Hall is a 10-minute walk away.

We look forward to seeing you at the Práctica!

Here’s to Mary Ellen!

The team at Siempre Tango would like to celebrate one of our own: Mary Ellen Hurd. She has decided to hang up her Argentine tango teaching shoes following the Spring 2019 Session.

We have been unimaginably lucky and grateful to have had such dedicated and talented teacher working with us for 19 of our 21 years of operation.

Please join us at the Red and White Milonga on June 30th as we say “Thank you” to this wonderful teacher. If you’ve taken classes with her in the past, or if you haven’t come to see us for a while, be sure to attend!

If it sounds like this is a send-off, not to worry: Mary Ellen has way too many pairs of tango shoes to show off so she will definitely continue to grace the dance floor as only she can! We look forward to her honoring us with that mischievous smile which never fails to light up a whole room and the sunshine that always she seems to trail behind her!

We’re having a Special Milonga on Tuesday, February 19.

*** Edit: Because of the February 12 snowstorm, we postponed this event until February 19th. Sorry for any inconvenience! ***

  • We’ll start at 8:30 PM.
  • Light finger foods and chocolate treats will be provided.
  • There will be a cash bar.
  • Dress code (optional): Bright colours, funky / retro style, big hair. (Watch this for inspiration.)
  • There will be a prize given for “Best Cortina Dancing.” Get your non-tango moves ready!
  • Cover: $15 in advance until Feb. 10. $20 at the door.

See you on the dance floor!

Happy Holidays from Siempre Tango!

Thank you to all of our students and patrons for your support throughout 2018.

We hope you’ll be able to join us this holiday season and beyond.

No practica on December 23; no milonga on December 25.
Happy Holidays!

Year-End Milonga: December 30, 6:30 to 10:30 PM. 
Kick off your New Year’s celebration early. There will be finger food and a cash bar. Cover: $15. Please confirm your presence; it will be easier to have enough food for everyone.

The Resolution Milonga: January 1, 8:30 PM to midnight
Start 2019 on the right foot. Cover: $10. (There will be a free class for beginners before the milonga at 7:00 PM. If you bring a new person to the beginner class, pay just $5 for the milonga.)

Trial Classes in January.
We’ll be offering free beginner classes on January 1, 6, 7, and 8. Help us make Siempre Tango’s 20th year the best one yet!

The Sunday Práctica resumes January 6.
Music starts at 7:00 PM. Start 2019 on a high note.

Our Class Schedule is available now.
Classes begin Wednesday, January 9, 2019. Visit our website to see the full schedule. Contact Francis to reserve your spot today.

We look forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary year with you in 2019!

Coming soon in November and December 2018…

Tomás Howlin is coming to Ottawa soon. Register today! 

Early Bird deadline for Tomás Howlin’s workshops is on Sunday, November 25th. Pre-register and pre-pay at the Tuesday Milonga to reserve your spot. For full details and pricing, visit our the event page.

This November:

  • Current students: If you plan on continuing classes next session, please let Francis know.
  • Don’t forget that the Tuesday Milonga is free for all Tango 1 students until November 27th.
  • A reminder: A milonga is like a beloved pet. If you want it to stay alive, you must feed it regularly!

This December: 

  • Sunday, December 2 at 6:00 PM: Tango Endings
    An all-levels workshop. Explore ideas for nailing those endings musically. Special end-of-year pricing! Workshop only: $15. Workshop + práctica: $20.
  • Tuesday, December 4 at 7:00 PM: La Milonga Primera
    For those who have completed Tango 1, 2, or 3, but haven’t felt “ready enough” to come to the Tuesday Milonga. For more details, click here.
  • Tuesday, December 4 at 8:00 PM: The Snow Ball 
    Food and warm tandas to start the holiday season. Dress to impress. Stella from Montreal will be there with gorgeous tango shoes and clothes. Advanced tickets for $15 until November 27. $20 after the 27th.
  • Tuesday, December 18 at 8:00 PM: Bytown Tango Band
    Advanced tickets will be sold for $15 until December 11. $20 after the 11th. $5 for non-dancers. Message us for more details.

We look forward to seeing all of you soon!

October 2018 Highlights: Two new Mini-Sessions and a Halloween Milonga!

“Follower’s Technique and Adornos” starts  October 3.

Class takes place at De la Salle Secondary (501 Old St. Patrick) from 8:00 to 9:30 PM. Bring flats AND heels!

Details here »

 

No Práctica on Sunday, October 7.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend!

See our calendar of events »

 

“Musicality 2” begins on Sunday, October 28.

We’ll talk about using changes in intensity, dynamics, and movement quality to have a more “co-creative” dance.

Register today »

 

We’ll be having our Halloween Milonga on Tuesday, October 30. 

  • We’ll start at 8:00 PM and go all the way until midnight.
  • Light finger foods and sweet treats will be provided.
  • Although costumes aren’t obligatory, don’t miss your chance to win the prize for Best Costume!
  • Cover will be $15.

Any questions? Contact us today!

Ottawa Welcomes the Redwood Tango Trio on Wednesday, August 29th.

Siempre Tango Ottawa is proud to host the Redwood Tango Trio on Wednesday, August 29th, at 8:00 PM.

(Yes – we’re moving our Milonga to WEDNESDAY for one week only.)

They’re on tour to support their latest album, Prizefighter. The Trio is comprised of core members of the Redwood Tango Ensemble, the North American sextet known for powerful stage performances and innovative original tango music. You might remember them from their 2013 show in Ottawa. We look forward to enjoying their signature, danceable style once again!

Programme:

8:00 PM – Dancing starts with DJ Jewel
9:00 – 9:45 PM – Redwood Tango Trio’s first set
10:15 – 11:00 PM – RTT’s second set
Dancing continues until midnight.

Tickets:

For tango dancers: $20 at the door.
For music lovers / Non-dancers: $10 per person.

Special features:

  • Snack potluck to say goodbye to two of our community members. If you would like to contribute, please contact us.
  • There will be a cash bar that will serve drinks from 8:30 to 11:00 PM (last call). You will be able to take your drinks into Bate Hall.

Questions and reservations:

Please email Francis Caron at info@siempretango.ca.