There is something about Tango and Buenos Aires, the two go together like jamon y queso, like peanut butter and jelly; you simply can’t imagine one without the other.
Buenos Aires is, arguably, the birthplace of Tango. Tango is the result of mass European immigration to Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. The neighborhood of its origin was “La Boca, “or “the mouth”. Its name derived from being located near the, once booming, ports considered “the gateway” to Argentina. At this time you could find a mix of Spanish, Italian and French immigrants. The impact this had on the Buenos Aires identity was so powerful that the people who live in the city still refer to themselves as “porteños” - the people of the port. It is no wonder that it was near the port, that the national dance was born. The center of the La Boca neighborhood was “El Caminito”, or little street. This tiny street became a place of gathering and socializing and it was the energy here that inspired the cool, sexy, mysterious vibe that is synonymous with Tango.
It was on El Caminito that Juan de Dios Filiberto composed some of his most famous songs and where Carlos Gardel, considered the father of Tango, was inspired to create his iconic sound. Tango quickly became the dance of choice throughout the region only to reach a decline after 1929 and the great depression. This, however, changed under the Juan Peron government and tango became a matter of national pride.
The strong cultural influence that tango had on “portenos” can be felt throughout the city to this day. Whether you’re exploring the famous San Telmo Fair on a Sunday, exploring El Caminito, or causally walking down the street in Palermo, tango surrounds you. It permeates through open vendor carts, you can always find a pair of tango dancers performing on street corners - offering lessons, posing for pictures with tourists.
While tango can be an intimidating “scene” to break into, there are several avenues you can choose to get a feel for the music, the culture, and the dance.
A popular activity is to find a “milonga” near you. A milonga is a dance hall dedicated to tango. You can find milongas scattered throughout the city. There are several types of milongas, ones that cater to the experienced dancer, the traditional dancer and the curious dancer. If you don’t wish dance, that’s not a problem, most milongas offer wine, champagne and plenty of seating for those that love the energy, but may be restricted due to their “two left feet.”
If you’re short on time, or are interested in a polished production, there is nothing quite like experiencing a tango show. It is not difficult to find a tango show in Buenos Aires, however, it can be a challenge finding which tango show is the right one for you. If you’re looking for big stage, big production, and large dance sequences: Cafe de los Angelitos is a great option. Known for their polish and flair, any show here is a show to be enjoyed.
If you wish to learn and watch: Sabor y Tango is a great option. You can choose to start your evening with a lesson followed by a first class production.
If you want a sexier intimate vibe: Rojo Tango will not disappoint. Known as the most seductive tango show in Buenos Aires, Rojo Tango, located in the Faena Hotel, puts on a show that will motivate you to learn the tango.
If your main concern is when you can eat dinner, all of the aforementioned shows provide a “Dinner and Show” option, with the meal preceding the show. Most menus don’t disappoint and are always sure to feature Argentina’s famous Malbec and bife de chorizo.
Because Buenos Aires is such a melting pot of cultures and influence, tango seems to be the unifier. the element that defines what is means to be Argentinian, to be a “porteno”. It is something that is uniquely theirs: a sound all their own.