I love tango dancing in big cities, such as New York and Chicago. And there are many more cities out there I want to visit.
For the last decade as of this article, I’ve been living in a much smaller city. And since I’m both an instructor and organizer there, I’ve naturally developed a soft spot for tango activities in those settings.
And as much as I still love tango scenes in large metropolitan areas, I can’t say that the tango experience in big cities is always objectively better. Of course, I might not have come to this conclusion if I hadn’t relocated to where I am now. But here are some reasons to check out tango scenes in places that often get overlooked:
Very often, they’ll surprise you: “There’s tango in Madison, Wisconsin?” That’s a question I’ve heard a million times whenever I talk about what I do. Yes, Madison has a very active tango scene, with lessons happening almost every night, milongas 1-3 a week, a friendly, international crowd, and also plenty of parking! All that and you get to have tasty cheese curds and great local beer.
But I’m not just going to plug the Badger State. All over the midwest, in what the media disdainfully calls “flyover country,” there are great places to dance.
Maybe they’re not as huge as major cities, but the people there love their tango. And without the “name brand” recognition of a big city, we can bet that one major reason tango even exists in lesser known areas is because the organizers had to be very creative/resourceful in making things happen.
You’ll really feel like part of a close community: A well-attended milonga in a smaller city is still a blast even if, in pure mathematical terms, there are fewer people around than there would be in a bigger city. Strangers get noticed, and there’s always an effort to welcome them. It’s not only easy to befriend everyone in a smaller tango community, but to establish a sincere connection with them, too. With a huge group of people, on the other hand, science has proven that these kinds of connections aren’t likely.
They’re a bit like hidden treasure: Speaking from my own experience in Madison, visiting tango fanatics who found the events here have always left with an overwhelmingly positive impression and experience.
I have a feeling that we’d likely have the same reaction in smaller tango communities elsewhere. Smaller tango communities are unexpected treasures. Although they’re often faced with the challenge of maintaining sustainable numbers, much of their charm comes from being somewhat undiscovered. They’re the tango equivalent of that hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves the best steak we’ve ever eaten, or an awesome indie rock band that we hope never goes mainstream.
So if you get a chance, check out the tango scene in a smaller city. Chances are we’ll have a fun time, and we’ll connect with folks who welcome us with open arms the next time we come back.