We had time for two tango shows while in Buenos Aires, Cafe Tortoni was the better of the two shows that we saw. Tango shows range from the small clubs like this one to the Las Vegas style glitz of the shows like Senor Tango, I wanted to see a more intimate show so we booked here for an 8:30 show on a Friday night. We were able to book by stopping by, they were booked for Thursday but had availiability for the next evening.
They have you get there about 1/2 hour early to get seated and get your drinks, the crowd seemed to be a mix of visitors and locals. There's also a snack menu, we got a cheese and sausage platter that was ample enough that we didn't have dinner.
The entire show is in Spanish, the singing, the banter, but even for us with a limited knowledge of Spanish, we could get the gist of the performance. The music here was more what I think of as classic tango music than the other show we saw, the singer alternated with the pair of dancers who were sexy and incredibly talented.
The show is performed in very tight quarters, you will likely be very cozy with your neighbors and I was sure that the female dancers was going to impale one of the musicians with her stillettos! Even the small round tables are set up for 3 or 4 people, we ended up with a solo traveler at our table
Dress Code: No real dress code, the local folks all seemed to be dressed very nicely (suits on men, dress slacks and glittery tops on the women), the tourists were a bit more casual.
Saturday, the day after our failed attempt at the Cafe Tortoni, found us at the Japanese Gardens restaurant in a completely different part of Buenos Aires. In the course of our meal, I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman sitting by himself at a table next to ours. He turned out to be a wealthy American, from the state of Washington, who was completing a pole-to-pole circumnavigation of the world! Our conversation drifted to Tango shows and he began to wax eloquently about the musical show 'Tanguera', which just happened to be playing in BA at the moment! He said that he had already been through both it and the Tortoni experience, and there was no comparison.
That conversation led us to have our return taxi drop us off at the Teatro Astral, which happened to be located only 3 blocks from our Hotel !! We changed our Tango plans and bought two of the best seats in the house for the evening performance at 9 PM (A$40 each or US$14). It was a fantastic experience on Buenos Aires' equivalent of New York's Broadway!
Dress Code: The musical told the story of the hard life of young women who emigrated to Argentina in the early years, quickly succumbing to the trials of prostitution under the heel of the male-dominated working-class areas. The dance sequences and music were amazing as the story of control was played out between the 'pimp' and the true lover of the young lady. A Diego Romay production with choreography by Mora Godoy and starring Esteban Domenichini, Maia Nieves and Dabel Zanbria.
We were not disappointed by the results of our lunchtime conversation! The photo shows the ticket office to the right, beneath the show marquee.
It was a Friday in the big city, so we figured that we had better get ready to Tango! During the afternoon, we had made a stop at an internet cafe to catch up on emails from home. While Sue was doing that, I checked out possible Tango sites on VT !! Arriving back at our hotel in early evening, the desk manager confirmed my VT hit on Cafe Tortoni as the spot to check out.
It was about 9 PM by the time we had eaten and got ourselves dolled up for an evening out. A quick taxi ride along the 10 city blocks to the Tortoni and we were in an obvious 'hot-spot' of Argentinian night-life. However, when I checked with one of their waiters about their Tango shows, held in a separate back room, he said that the 8:30 PM performance had just ended and the 11:30 PM one was booked up. We were able to make arrangements for the 8:30 PM performance on Saturday night, so we were happy with that!
The Cafe Tortoni is a really classic spot, with it's walls covered with old photos of celebrities. The tables were full and a constant stream of people were coming and going off one of Buenos Aires' main streets - Av. de Mayo. I ordered a large Heineken beer (US$3) while Sue sipped on an Argentinian white wine (US$1.30) to go with our table snack of nuts. It was good fun to simply sit there and watch the early night activity in Buenos Aires! By about 11 PM, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel. This time, we walked down Av. de Mayo and across the world's widest street - Av 9 de Julio. It was amazing to see the streets crowded with people at that time of night, early in the evening for Buenos Aires!
Cafe Tortoni is at Av de Mayo 825/9, Telephone 4342 and web-site 'www.cafetortoni.com.ar'.
In the end, we did not get to see our show (next Tip) even though we tried one more time on our final night in Argentina - after we had been to Iguazu Falls and the Andes Mountains.
Cafe Tortoni is one of the oldest cafes in Buenos Aires. Time seems to have stopped when you're there, as they preserve the furniture, lamps,atmosphere, an even the waiters! in the way it was when this place was opened, in 1858. What made this caf? so important was the fact that it was frequented by artists, writeres and such.
There are excellent tango shows in a small room (which in my opinion makes the experience more cosy and personal) they have at the back, higly recommendable. Book a table beforehand! And check their webpage for timetables, as sometimes you only get musicians and singers and no dancers.
Ticket price: 25 pesos (around 8 US dollars)
I was really impressed by how classy that place was. I was invited by some friends and expected to see just a run of the mill tango show, but what I experienced was quite different. It was actually a tango MUSIC show, where people from the crowd get up and dance. And the folks who got up actually knew how to dance. When I arrived, there was a singer by the name of Esteban Riera and he was outstanding!
Senor Riera was followed by one of the best orchestras I've had the privilege to hear in a long time: Gente de Tango. Those guys were not only tight, but very classy as well. While they were playing, different singers were invited up for a song or two. Each one has their own style and were all really terrific! What a fantastic evening, and I highly recommend Almatango!
Almatango was also recently declared a sight of "Tourist Interest" by the Buenos Aires government.
Dress Code: Nice dress preferred.
A cool little Theatre and Bar locater very close to the Abasto Shopping complex. I'm including both as one tip because they are in the same building. Of course going to a huge big-budget theatre production can be fun, but I prefer going to some of the smaller houses, where one can take a look at the stars of the future.
A friend that is acting in a play and her boyfriend the director introduced me to this house. (Paula and Javier). The play is called Mil Cuentos Para una Noche, and I highly recommend anyone in Buenos Aires to check it out. Certainly at 4 pesos, the price is right.
After a performance, stick around for a drink at the Dell Tango Bar for a Quilmes or Coffee. Comer, Escuchar, Aprender, Recordar, Jugar and yet still 98% Portreno... whatever that means.
Dress Code: None
Without question, the BEST tango show is El Viejo Almacen, located in San Telmo barrio. It is a traditional tango show - just fabulous dancers, a small Argentine ochestra and beautifully executed. Being Argentine (but being first generation American), I found this show to be soul stirring, melancholic ad not too glitzy, over produced, like Senor Tango. I did go to Senor Tango and was really turned off by the ending production number of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" with the Argentine flag falling from the ceiling and confetti sprinkling the stage. I had ot gone there to hear an interpretation of the Andrew Lloyd Weber play "Evita". This was not, in my opinion, a true tango show. The over priced, "touristy" gift shop was a bit much. I don't think there was one porteno in the entire place. This show is geared for tourists only.
I would strongly recommend El Viejo Almacen. It IS the best tango show in the word. Small and cozy and tango, the way it is to be sung and danced.
Dress Code: I would recommend dinner attire.Although I did not notice a dress code, everyone is nicely dressed, slacks and dresses for women and no jeans.
We asked our hotel about a nice tango show to go see on David's birthday and they steered us to Q 1920, they said it wasn't a Las Vegas glitzy show like Senor Tango but that it was more intimate and that the food was better than most tango shows because they were attached to El Querundi restaurant.
Our evening started off on the wrong foot when all the tango show patrons had been picked up and we were still in the lobby, our hotel hadn't made our reservations. They called us a taxi and assured us we wouldn't get the worst seat in the house, "I'm a good friend with the hostess" our concierege says. Well, I'd hate to see what his enemies do to him, we did indeed end up with the worst table in the house.
We then take a look at the menu and there's only one option for dinner and we're eyeing the door looking for the escape route. But then our waiter brings over the real menu (the first one was from the large company function there that night) and there's several choices so we decided to stay.
The food was good but I really can't say much for the show, seemed to be just one notch above a high school talent show and none of the performers seemed to be excited to be there.
Milonga, 'tango party', is a place or an event where tango is danced; people who frequently go to milongas are sometimes called milongueros. There are endless varieties of milongas available throughout the city every day, with a greater concentration on weekends. Each milonga has its own style, ambient and clientele. Most of them often begin with dancing classes and many have presentations by professional performance dancers. Three to five songs are usually played in a row followed by a short brake when they can change partners.
Same place hosts different quality milongas on different days of the week, so it's a good idea to look at the program (you can get it in tango shoes shops, tango music shops and milongas), before you decide for one. The link below is the most up-to-date list of milongas of Buenos Aires. My favourites were:
It is a preferred place for the younger public where people attend dancing classes before the dance.
phone number: 011 4774 6357/4779 0030
Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, Palermo
phone number: 015 5738 3850
Dress Code: tango shoes and a nice dress would be fine
Plaza Dorrego is the heart of the wonderful quarter of San Telmo. Its a large, rectangular-shaped square lined with lovely old buildings that are now used as antique stores, art galleries, restaurants, cafés, cabarets, icecream shops, etc.
The inside of the Plaza is usually equipped with parasols and chairs from the adjoining cafés. It's a lively place to have a snack, a beer or some wine, and watch the world go by. But mostly, you'll enjoy watching a tango or two right on the square, or listening to some live music (of the nostalgic variety, guitar, bandoneons, violins, flutes.) The performers bring their boom boxes and show you how thrilling and intricate a good tango can be. They earn a living this way, you can show your appreciation by clapping wildly and by putting some money in their hat.
All around the Plaza, young street vendors sell incense, jewelery, wood work, maté gourds and bombilla, hand-made leather belts and other handicrafts. They are always there, like old habitués, and it was really cool to spend time hanging out with them. It helped me not to be lonely in this terribly melancholy city, and they taught me so much about Buenos Aires and beyond.
Later at night, take in the tango show at El Balcon de la Plaza, right on Plaza Dorrego at the corner of Humberto Primo and Defensa. I have a few bad pics of the show in a travelogue below (I had just bought the camera... and it was not a good one anyway.)
Dress Code: I felt safe in San Telmo. It IS quite crowded in daytime so I kept my bag and my wits about me. I walked home a few times, along quiet streets, to the edge of San Telmo and the next area, Constitucion, without any problem. But Constitucion is a different place, not touristy at all and more isolated than San Telmo. After being warned once too often, I took a cab when I headed out of San Telmo for home.
Wherever you are, don't ever put your bag down. Keep it on you and secured. Don't push your bag between your computer desk and the wall and think it's safe with you in front. There could be a hole in the wall across from you and believe me, that hole will find your bag and pull it through, while the hole's accomplice is tapping your shoulder and asking you if the pencil he's holding is yours... Your personal belongings are safe on you, not beside you.
ooops sorry... dress code... none for the street, on the Plaza. For a cabaret, maybe something smart. Goes without saying...
This milonga venue is my favourite!!!!
The place looks like a disco but its walls painted in orange give a very warm and cosy atmosphere. The people there were mainly Argentinians (and not too many western foreigners) and the distance between the dancers was not too big. There are two wooden small dance floor, one with orange tables all around at the entrance and another with green tables at the back of the place.
The dance style is milonguera, it means very close and slow. There is not a lot of space anyway.
We had there two tango shows during the ball : one of a professionnal couple and another of very young people..really great!
If you'd like to see some tango in a casual, relaxed atmosphere you might want to consider doing the Teatro Colon's Tango y Vino program. $20 pesos gets you tango, wine tasting and a live performance in the Teatro Colon's main auditorium.
I didn't want to leave BsAs without seeing some tango other than the street dancers, but I didn't really want to do the full fledged tango show that included the whole nine yards. When we visited the Teatro Colon we heard that they offer a Tango y Vino program that includes tango, live music, wine tasting and a live performance in the teatro's main auditorium.
This program, which runs from about 6-8:30pm, starts off with the tango and wine tasting portion in the teatro's ornately guilded Dorado room. It's a casual affair with the wine vendors set up around the perimeter. You are free to sample and chat with the vendors. From time to time the muscians will start up and a tango dance is performed. Some dances are performed to recorded music as well. You are free to either watch the tango or continue with your wine tasting as you please. Some people might see it as tango with wine tasting on the side and others might consider it wine tasting with tango on the side. Either way, it feels a lot like a small private gathering in a lavious villa that is the Teatro Colon.
Then at about 8pm, you are invited to seat yourself in the Teatro's main auditorium. You really feel like you are part of a special crowd because there are only about 20-30 people littered among the audience. A lone musician performs on the main stage. As you listen it's not hard to imagine how people in the early 1900's came to the very same place and enjoyed beautiful music in this amazing auditorium.
As an added bonus, they let you take pics during your stay, which they don't let you do during the regular daytime tours of the Teatro.
Confiteria Ideal is place that oozes with 1920s opulence and character. It was founded in 1912 and I don’t think much has changed since including the crowd. It is café, bar, restaurant that has two floors. The bottom is mostly a confiteria, a café and bakery where you can also get a light lunch, and the top is a bar and dance hall. The walls are covered with deeply rich wood paneling and mirrors, the ceiling is full of fans and an ornate metal and glass skylight. It is a time capsule where you keep waiting for Carlos Gardel to come strolling in. It is not the best place to go to meet young people because the clientele are mostly older couples. But the ambiance is great and the people are nice.
Tango classes are available from Monday to Thursday from12:00 to 3pm and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 3pm to 9pm
Dances are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 3pm to 9pm and on Thursdays from 10 pm to 4 am.
Fridays they usually have a show tat starts around 8pm.
The cost for the class and/or dance is 5 pesos.
Dress Code: Look Good. You don't need a suit and tie but this is a conservative crowd.
A descent tango show on a Sunday in San Telmo is Mitos Argentinos. From 12 to 5 pm every Sunday they have a show of music and dancing. The dancers are pretty good and the food is not bad. They have a pretty good menu and wine selection. The views from the upper level are pretty good.
This place gets busy!
Dress Code: No dress code, but I would look descent. Most argentines dress pretty well and you don't want to blatantly look like a tourist.
Nino Bien is a great venue for tango dancing and dinner. It has a large wooden floor with tables set around it. They have a good menu and full service bar. The food is quite good and at a reasonable price. There is a nice mix of older and younger couples with different dance styles and character. Everybody here knows each other and are friendly to new comers.
Tango and milonga lessons are offered by Chiche and Marta from 9 pm to 10:30 pm. General dancing starts at 10:30 and last until the early morning.
$10 pesos per person.
Classes and Dances are every Thursday night at the Centro Region Leonesa on the second floor.
Dress Code: Dress well, everyone does.