Any tour in Buenos Aires would be remiss to not include a good deal about the city’s primary cultural contribution — the sultry combination of music and dance known as the Tango. The dance’s sensual movements build on hypnotic rhythms and nostalgic lyrics (when sung) to create a truly unforgettable experience.
Exploring the history of Tango is very much like exploring the history of Buenos Aires itself. Tango is a product of many different cultural influences (Spanish, Italian, French, African and Eastern European), having been developed in the crowded streets of the immigrant barrios La Boca and San Telmo. It can still be found there: in quite spontaneous ways in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego (particularly on a Sunday afternoon), and in a more touristy, semi-professional manner in La Boca. This is the best manner to first encounter the dance and music, for it recreates some of the flavor of the movement’s early period.
Tango gradually became a cultural export of Buenos Aires, and this professionalization soon became very popular throughout the world. It was still a while before the Argentine elite would completely accept it, but already the phenomenon of a Tango show was born. Today’s shows bear quite a lot of similarities with those first ones. It is difficult to venture through central Buenos Aires without being invited to one. Given the enormous variety of options, prices and quality, it is a good idea to go with some advice. Say Hueque has carefully chosen our favorite places to watch the Buenos Aires Tango being performed based on the quality of the food, the show, the price, as well as historical significance.
Tango was never meant only to be watched, but danced. Some take a tour of Buenos Aires with the sole aim of learning the dance, but in reality any time dedicated to it will guarantee to be a memorable, perhaps intoxicating experience. There are an immense number of dance halls or milongas in Buenos Aires that offer very different types of ambience and style. Venture to places like La Ideal for an ‘Old World’, traditional ambience. Located mere blocks from the Obelisk, this converted confiteria is worth a look even if one has no desire to dance. Other options include the beginner friendly La Viruta, which holds a nightly milonga and lessons. Milongas with more advanced clientele include the Salon Canning and the Niño Bien. This is just the tip of the iceberg—there are venues that feature electronic-infused versions, as well as ones devoted for gay and lesbian pairs.
The city’s tourism industry offers some very convenient ways to enjoy the Buenos Aires Tango, from the ‘TangotaxiDancers’ service, which provides dancing partners of both sexes and at every ability level, to guided Milonga tours and, of course, a Buenos Aires Tango Show. For those interested in learning more, there is also a Tango Afternoon—which includes a visit to the city’s Tango spots (like the Tango Museum on Avenida de Mayo) and introduces its key figures (such as Carlos Gardel—the godfather of Tango, his cheeky smile beneath a fedora is hard to miss). It also includes thorough group lessons and finishes in the Café Tortoni.
There are many ways to experience Tango during a tour in Buenos Aires. It is extremely important that one’s visit include Tango in some way, for the more one allows oneself to become swept up in the sensuality of this dance and music, the more one connects to the heart of Buenos Aires.