L'Academie De Tango (4445 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) is quite possibly one of the best milongas in Montreal. The level of dancers who attend is very high, most are advanced or tango gods. However I did not experience any slights for not being an advanced dancer. In fact, multiple people went out of their way to chat with me as they knew I was not from the area. The vibe of this place is very intimate and cozy, almost as though you are going to some one's house to dance rather than a random tango venue in the middle of Montreal. The lighting was dim, but not so dim that you could not see across the room, and the wood was dark and had that intimate feel of an old European bar. The decor seems to change regularly, this last time I went the bar had been remodeled and although the placement was most likely better as far as serving patrons goes, it was visually assaulting with huge, white leather upholstered panels, studded with black buttons. Think of the leather headboards of the 70's and you'll get the idea. It was certainly not my taste, and from the conversations I had about the venue with others, it was not to theirs either, however it was mentioned multiple times that the owner remodeled often, so they were not too concerned as they believed it would change again soon.
When you walk up the long, narrow stairs from the street and reach the venue's level, you are cheerily greeted by the attendant in both french and english. There is a coat room and chairs to sit and change shoes in immediately to your left. Then as you walk forward, there are tables and chairs set up in a cafe style with people sitting and chatting or enjoying a glass of wine. To your right is the bar and the dance floor. Across the room is an elevated staging area with lots of comfy couches and chairs where one can sit and survey the dance floor. To reach the dance floor or stage, one walks behind the bar, which I thought was brilliant as it kept incoming traffic off the dance floor, which is packed. The far side of the dance floor, opposite the bar, is one long mirror, which gives depth and dimension to the room, as well as offers leaders a welcome tool in navigation.
The music was mostly traditional with a few nuevo tango tandas thrown in. The DJ seemed to really work off of the vibe of the dancers, which was lovely as it really felt as though the music was crafted for the moment. The night I went there were no cortinas, which was a little disconcerting as I am very used to cortinas. However it also allowed more freedom in dancing with your partners as you could have three, four, six or seven songs with someone instead of one or two tandas.
The floor craft was the best that I had experienced in Montreal (this was the fourth venue I have danced at). The dance level was incredibly high, and so were the leaders' navigation skills. Although the few bumps that did happen were met with icy stares at the offending leader. The expectation at this venue seemed to be that the line of dance was to be strictly observed and moves that were a hazard to the others on the floor were not tolerated. All of the leaders I danced with exuded a very solid sense of protection towards me as their follower. After 1am, the floor emptied somewhat and there was more room for dancing. Although it seems that in Montreal, they are more focused on musicality than on figures, which was a welcome change for me, as I come from a figure-happy city.
All together, this milonga was one of the best tango experiences I have had in Montreal. The music, the venue and the dancers were all exceptional and welcoming. Some of the venues I had patronized in Montreal I did not feel quite so welcome as an outsider coming in. But here, it was as though they were thrilled I had found their milonga and conversation was easy and friendly. Be aware though, I have discovered that many bartenders in tango venues do not speak english well, if at all, so often I ordered in french. Luckily I can order "un verre de vin rouge, s'il vous plait" or "un verre de l'eau" easily enough.
If you are in Montreal on a Sunday night, definitely make this your last stop on your tango journey!