If in Buenos Aires, you do have to watch one of the many places that offer live Tango dances.
VTer risse73 wrote me and said it was even banned by the Vatican at one time...
I opted for one which provided dinner as well in one building, and then we moved across the street to the opposite theatre where the performances were done.
Tango is a very mysterious, complex, alluring and sultry dance which depicts the angst and joys of human desire. You see quick jerky tilts of the head, sudden spins and turns, snappy kicks and knee bending. The year 1913 was when the Tango was the dance craze in Europe.
The “bandoneon” is that small accordion which sounds so tortured, playing to the themes of complex relationships between men and women – friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Tango is also called making love in the vertical position.
What struck me most was that a middle aged lady went up the stage and then sang a song which brought tears to a lot of the Argentinian audience (I mean, you really see tears going down their cheeks! Very passionate people, indeed!). Apparently, it was a very patriotic song about the struggles of the commoner, and the locals who knew the song were easily moved.
I made a video of my short trip to Buenos Aires on Youtube. Hope you like this:
JUMPING NORMAN IN BUENOS AIRES
Argentine tango has been thrilling dancers for more than 100 years. Tango is loved by dancers and audiences for its beauty, passion, drama and excitement. Learning to dance tango socially is based on improvisational movement and respecting both your partner and the other dancers on the floor. The essence of Argentine tango is about life and, especially, about the relationship between a man and a woman. Graciela Gonzales, a leading tango instructor, calls the dance "the history of love—for three minutes." In this guide, I offer a brief overview of tango history, what to expect in classes, the various types of tango danced at social events, the music, and tango etiquette. I've also included useful terms, a Beginner's checklist and some resources available through the Internet.
Tango Yesterday and Today
The exact origins of tango—both the dance and the word itself—are lost in myth and an unrecorded history. The generally accepted theory is that in the mid-1800s, African slaves were brought to Argentina and began to influence the local culture. The word "tango" may be straightforwardly African in origin, meaning "closed place" or "reserved ground." Or it may derive from Portuguese (and from the Latin verb tanguere, to touch) and was picked up by Africans on the slave ships. Whatever its origin, the word "tango" acquired the standard meaning of the place where African slaves and free blacks gathered to dance.
Argentina was undergoing a massive immigration during the later part of the 1800s and early 1900s. In 1869, Buenos Aires had a population of 180,000. By 1914, its population was 1.5 million. The intermixing of African, Spanish, Italian, British, Polish, Russian and native-born Argentines resulted in a melting pot of cultures, and each borrowed dance and music from one another. Traditional polkas, waltzes and mazurkas were mixed with the popular habanera from Cuba and the candombe rhythms from Africa.
Most immigrants were single men hoping to earn their fortunes in this newly expanding country. They were typically poor and desperate, hoping to make enough money to return to Europe or bring their families to Argentina. The evolution of tango reflects their profound sense of loss and longing for the people and places they left behind.
Most likely the tango was born in African-Argentine dance venues attended by compadritos, young men, mostly native born and poor, who liked to dress in slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs and high-heeled boots with knives tucked casually into their belts. The compadritos took the tango back to the Corrales Viejos—the slaughterhouse district of Buenos Aires—and introduced it in various low-life establishments where dancing took place: bars, dance halls and brothels. It was here that the African rhythms met the Argentine milonga music (a fast-paced polka) and soon new steps were invented and took hold.
Although high society looked down upon the activities in the barrios, well-heeled sons of the porteño oligarchy were not averse to slumming. Eventually, everyone found out about the tango and, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the tango as both a dance and as an embryonic form of popular music had established a firm foothold in the fast-expanding city of its birth. It soon spread to provincial towns of Argentina and across the River Plate to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where it became as much a part of the urban culture as in Buenos Aires.
The worldwide spread of the tango came in the early 1900s when wealthy sons of Argentine society families made their way to Paris and introduced the tango into a society eager for innovation and not entirely averse to the risqué nature of the dance or dancing with young, wealthy Latin men. By 1913, the tango had become an international phenomenon in Paris, London and New York. There were tango teas, tango train excursions and even tango colors—most notably orange. The Argentine elite who had shunned the tango were now forced into accepting it with national pride.
The tango spread worldwide throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The dance appeared in movies and tango singers traveled the world. By the 1930s, the Golden Age of Argentina was beginning. The country became one of the ten richest nations in the world and music, poetry and culture flourished. The tango came to be a fundamental expression of Argentine culture, and the Golden Age lasted through the 1940s and 1950s.
Tango's fortunes have always been tied to economic conditions and this was very true in the 1950s. During this time, as political repression developed, lyrics reflected political feelings until they started to be banned as subversive. The dance and its music went underground as large dance venues were closed and large gatherings in general were prohibited. The tango survived in smaller, unpublicized venues and in the hearts of the people.
The necessity of going underground combined with the eventual invasion of rock and roll sent the tango into decline until the mid-1980s when the stage show Tango Argentino opened in Paris. Once again Paris was ground zero for igniting tango excitement worldwide. The show toured the world and stimulated a revival in Europe, North America and Japan that we are part of today.
Argentine Tango Basics
Argentine tango is an improvisational dance based on the four building blocks of walking, turning, stopping and embellishments. The dance is like a puzzle that gets put together differently each time. Women and men bring their own styles and embellishments to the dance which contribute significantly to the excitement and unpredictability of the experience. Even though dancers follow certain conventions, they never quite know how someone will construct a dance, add an embellishment or interpret the music. The surprises possible within the dance are what make the dance so addicting. It really does take two to tango, because the dance isn't just about the man leading and the woman following. Both partners have important things to contribute—like all good conversations.
Tango is danced counterclockwise around a floor just like a horse race. Dancers try to stay on the outside edges of the floor and away from the center space. If you were able to look down on a tango dance floor, you'd see dancers move as if floating down a river—flowing smoothly forward sometimes and occasionally stopping for a spin in a shallow eddy.
Is Argentine Tango the Same as Ballroom Tango?
No. They started out from the same roots, but location, time and the ever evolving nature of dance have made them separate dances. The American and International ballroom tangos you may see on PBS, are very different from the tango danced socially in Argentina. Argentine tango is different from the ballroom tangos in its posture, embrace, improvisation, movement, balance, steps, and music. It's completely different from the top of your head to the bottom of the soles of the shoes you dance it with.
If you have a background in ballroom tango, just think of Argentine tango as a completely new dance—not as an enhancement of the one you already know.
Styles of Argentine Tango
Within Argentine tango there are various styles you may hear people refer to. They will say, "Oh, he's milonguero dancer," or "She dances salon style." Styles are as unique as dancers and I think it's rather foolish to try to categorize either. Just remember if you hear terms like "salon," "milonguero," "fantasia," or "orillero" someone is talking about a certain style.
As with any evolving art form, trying to pin down the rules is impossible. Every day, new styles come forward and dancers find ways to play with them and incorporate them into their dance. In the past few years, styles known as neuvo and liquid have appeared. Who knows what's coming next? All we know is that it's coming.
The history of tango music is as rich and interesting as the dance. Tango music in Argentina followed much the same evolution as swing music did in the United States. It started as simple rhythms played for dancers by orchestras led by some colorful and charismatic bandleaders. Over time, simpler rhythms evolved to more complicated ones and finally edged toward more jazz-like interpretations less suitable for dancing but wonderful for listening.
Tango music is probably most distinguished from other types of music by two things: the bandoneon and the lack of drums. The bandoneon is a German instrument that looks and sounds like the offspring of an accordion and an organ. In fact, the instrument was invented to provide organ-like music to church congregations unable to afford a real organ. Like a lot of immigrants to Argentina, the bandoneon found its way into the culture and left an indelible mark on it.
You may also notice that there are no drums in tango music. The beat is kept on a bass and the lower register of the piano with (usually) bandoneons, violins and the upper register of the piano providing the fascinating rhythms.
When you start dancing tango, you'll most likely be dancing to the most rhythmic music from the 1940s and 1950s known as the Golden Age of tango. Music from the late 1930s is also great for learning how to hear the beat and feel the rhythm. As you become more experienced, later music (including that of modern tango orchestras) with its more modern jazzy rhythms becomes very interesting to interpret.
The term “Milonga” has several meanings:
It is the typical music of the cities that are near the shores of the Rio de La Plata (Argentina and Uruguay). It is the dance that starts up almost spontaneously. It is the place where dancers and amateurs go to in order to dance and feel the tango. Those who are experts and enthusiasts of this dance are called milongueros.
The Milongas are not all the same and there are many to suit all tastes. On the one hand, there are the traditional Milongas, where the clothes, the dancing level and the choice of music occupy an important place, and on the other hand, there are the more laid-back ones, where the milonga prevails as a meeting point. There are Milongas for couples and for singles (both men and women). Some are gay friendly and the queer milonga it is no exception.
The Milonga has its own and strict codes. It is the realm of the relationship between men and women, between two dancers. It is the dance of the proposal, of the invitation and the seduction. It is the total giving of oneself in the three minutes the dance lasts. It is the union and the space between the bodies. It is feeling in the soul the emotion that awakens Buenos Aires.
In the Milonga it is not compulsory to dance and you can remain seated around the dancefloor drinking something. But a Milonga it is not a tangueria where you listen and appreciate a choreographed show. Each day of the week there is a series of Milongas in different places, for any kind of audience. The nature of the Milonga does not depend upon the place, but upon the organizer and its audience.
There are many Milongas that are touristic, or they don´t have good dancers, so it´s mainly imposssible to choose the best place to go just looking on the web. Tango is a very closed ambience.
I should say that watching the show is a true pleasure. The dances dance with passion and when the singers sing, the local people from the public often joins them. Some of the moves the dancers were doing wre not only complicated but potentially dangerous :))) (like the one you see on the last picture).
A group of native Americans called Antara is also taking part in the show. I oved their performance so much that I bought their CD.
I have paid about USD 60 for my visit. It included a dinner in the restaurant across the street and the entrance fee for the tango show. For the entrance fee you also get a glace of Champaign while watching the show.
You can buy a video tape of the show and some CDs with the music of the performers. As far as I remember the tape was USD 20 and the CDs were about USD 12.
I am from Argentina and I love tango, but that is not the norm. I’ve been to most of the good and expensive shows out there (not all of them, since I don’t live there anymore) and to an extensive list of local places to learn and dance. The first thing that you have to know is that you will get what you pay for. The best place is $200 per person, but that includes a 5-star show and 5-star food and free flow of a 5-star wine. Or you can go to places where you pay less than $5, and you can see local people dance, or you can even learn to dance yourself!
The dance that you see in the shows (and in the movies) is VERY different from the tango that the normal people dance. If you really want to see a show, I would recommend spending the extra money and going to one. In my humble opinion, you will be disappointed if you go to a dance place to see local people dance...
The tango shows ARE mainly for tourists (nothing wrong with that! Everybody speaks English)
For all the place, you have different menu options and different prices. The best seats include the more expensive menu/wines. You can also buy the show only, but it’s not recommended, they will kill you with the food if you go that route (unless you want to eat beforehand!)
Here’s my list, in order. You can check the prices, this is just an idea (this prices are from February 2010)
1) Mr. Tango: THE best show. The stage is SO big, You’ll see several horses on it! If you can afford it, just go for it, you will not regret it. ($35 to $230)
2) Esquina Carlos Gardel: amazing as well. This is located in an old theatre, really good show, specially the musicians. ($80 to $230)
3) El Viejo Almacen: this is the most similar to the real tango that you’ll see. It’s a very old building; I would say this is the most traditional show. ($60 to $140)
4) El Querandi: This is in a restaurant. You’ll see some good dancers but not much of a show. ($65 to $170) I do not recommend this one. Not a good value for your money.
If you want to go to a “class” or a local dance place (it’s called “MILONGA” when people go to dance tango) and then stay to see people dance, this are my 3 suggestions:
Confiteria La Ideal: this is where Madonna taped Evita (she learn how to dance tango here, with a private instructor) This place has a ton of classes, all levels are welcome. The place itself is georgous. When they filmed the movie, they invested 1 million dollars in remodeling the place to bring back the old glamour that is has. They also have show here. I’ve never seen it.
Café Tortoni: this is one of the oldest cafes in Buenos Aires. They’ve been teaching tango for a gazillion years, another great experience. They also have show here. I’ve never seen it.
La Viruta: this is a gigantic place, where they have 4 or 5 different levels of instructors. If you don’t mid packed places and you want a cheap way to experience tango, this a is a good place to go. Beware that this is NOT a touristic place; and the instructors and servers speak Spanish ONLY. It’s $10 Argentinean Pesos to get in. http://www.lavirutatango.com/
I've been to million of places to dance tango. If this is what you want to do, you can go to a different place everyday and learn different styles. Each professor will teach you something different and that is the best way you can learn!
Anyone calling himself a passionate person, eventually dreams with Buenos Aires Tango.
This addictive dance is the expression of romance, emotion, love, heartbreak and passion. It's an intimate, silent conversation between two. Tango is improvisational and unpredictable. The man leads with his mind and body, and the woman follows with hers. She may add adornments and embellishments, while he is in control of the flow; they dance heart to heart and only the legs express differently. Eventually, due to the close embrace combined with strong or smooth moves, they fall in love. However, the sensuous communication and intimacy lasts for three minutes. Tango is about longing for something you can only shortly have.
Argentine tango captures the magnificent elements of passion and drama coupled with raw emotion and improvisation. It’s spirit and beauty is a translation of life itself, no wonder why it’s been called "the history of love...for three minutes."
Buenos Aires talks tango!!!. Walk down San Telmo, Palermo or La Boca and you will read tango art and history in tango dancers on the streets or clubs, and in the "machista" attitude the man adopts to dance with the woman, when he drives or even when he whispers loving words.
Argentina’s capital is an intense city, different than Paris in its character, but with the same sense of mystery that you find if you travel to Istanbul. And like Berlin has been named "City of Design" for its architecture, trendy stores, fashion, traditional cafes, not to say, the character and creativity of "porteños", with their knowing sense of itself.
It’s also the city of fury and hopes, fire and wind, love and hate: all of these opposites layers as Spanish and Italian immigrants, gauchos, political defenders, economic crashes, constant identity crisis , poetry, popular leaders embody by Evita, Che, Maradona, Ginobily, Messi, Del Potro, Vilas, and inspiration muses as Piazzola, Gardel, Borges, Barenboim, Marta Argerich, .....literally melting one with the other. For sure...you will find all this expressed in the lyrics and rhythm of tango music and dance.
Argentines define tango “a feeling”, different for every person, but besides individual responses to the music, the common emotion is nostalgia and longing. Tango is cathartic, sublimates the very sadness it expresses, thanks to the all-powerful embrace, which offers the dancers comfort and consolation. The language associated with the dance, is the expression of romance, emotion, love, heartbreak and passion. It's an intimate, silent conversation between two. The music tugs at your heartstrings, tango singers convey the emotional content with their voices and the rest of the story weaves in with the dance itself.
Tango is improvisational and unpredictable, similar to a puzzle that gets put together differently each time. There are no real "steps" but a walk forward, back and sideways. The man leads with his mind and body, and the woman follows with hers. She adds adornments and embellishments, while he is in control of the flow; they dance heart to heart and only the legs express differently.
The woman consent to dance is a glimpse. A simple look tells the man “yes you may approach and make me dance”. Then she will walk into the open arms, for him to hold wordlessly before they begin to move. Eventually, due to the close embrace combined with strong or smooth moves, they fall in love. However, the sensuous communication and intimacy will only last for three minutes. Tango is about longing for something you can only shortly have.
So…Argentine tango is an art form that captures the magnificent elements of passion and drama coupled with raw emotion and improvisation. The spirit and beauty of this addictive dance is a translation of life itself, no wonder why Tango it’s been called "the history of love...for three minutes."
El Viejo Almacén is the oldest tango hall in town. The building is over 200 years old—it was originally a general store, then a hospital, and was eventually converted to a tango hall. We had dinner at their restaurant first, which is in a newer building across the street, and then went to the show. All the dancers were good, but solos by an older guy and his partner were the most fun. In the middle of the dance, he would wink at the audience and do something unexpected.
The show also featured performances by a singer (also the MC) and Grupa Antara, an excellent Andean group.
Dinner/Show = $90 U.S. and starts at 8 p.m.
Show only = $50, 10 p.m.
We knew that we had to take in a tango show while in Buenos Aires and found Tango Porteno to be a fun experience. They offer dinner with the show or just the show. We opted for just the show at a cost of 160 pesos for the 2 of us (about 44 dollars). The theater is located in a great area, right on the Av 9 de Julio. We walked to the theater from the Wilton, a healthy walk but walking was a great way to see this remarkable city. However, we took a taxi back to our hotel because the show was over about midnight.
One tip is that I would be careful ordering drinks here. We had coffee and had to pay 40 pesos plus a gratuity.
La Viruta is a pretty popular place that opens every day and offers tango, rock and roll and salsa lessons the first few hours and then there's practice. The lessons are divided in elementary, intermediate and advanced, and in the practice you can find from a total rookie to an expert. The people's ages range from 25 to 75 and the ticket is just 15 pesos (5 dollars). No need to dress up! Just wear comfy clothes and shoes! From 9 o'clock onwards. But check the schedules in the website! There's an English version as well.
Tango music is loved for everybody around the world.
Argentina is tango homeland.
There are a lot of shows where you'll find glamour, excitement and sophistication of argentine's best music.
prices: u$D 50 (show) - u$D 60 (dinner + show)
Description: Tango Show. Milonga, Folkllore, Música del Altiplano
Location: San telmo
el viejo almacen
prices: u$D 60 (show) - u$d 83 (dinner + show)
Description: A pleasant and Tango ambience.
Genuine Tango, good wine and the art of good eating at this very corner
Esquina Carlos Gardel
prices: u$D 70 (show) u$d 100 (dinner + show)
Description: International Cousine. Historical Site. Show of Tango y Milonga.
prices: u$d 53 (show) - u$d 87 (dinner + show)
description: argentina cuisine
Location: Puerto Madero
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