The three things most foreigners know about Argentina are the importance of wine, beef and tango.
While the first two can be experienced in almost every cafe or parilla, the third requires some hunting. Because Buenos Aires is the capital of the tango, there are literally hundreds of options for seeing, dancing and learning tango in Buenos Aires. Since I am exceptionally uncoordinated, I knew that dancing and learning were outside the scope of reality. But as a student in Buenos Aires, I knew that if I returned to the States without some sort of tango experience, I would have fallen short.
The seemingly infinite amount of tango show options was daunting, but after a little research I decided on El Viejo Almacen located on the corner of Independencia and Balcarce in San Telmo. I was in search of an intimate experience, so El Viejo Almacen’s small and traditional setting was intriguing compared to a lot of other large and flashy theaters. Interesting fact- the venue has been around since 1769 and was originally used first as a warehouse and then as a British Hospital.
Immigration to Argentina started to pick up at the beginning of the 20th century and the San Telmo neighborhood became a culture hub. The mixture of immigrants and natives created the perfect atmosphere for the birthplace of tango. While the space was used as a local live music center, it was formally turned into a tango venue in 1969 and was declared a site of cultural interest in 1982.
El Viejo Almacen offers a tango show as well as a tasty dinner. Delicious menu offerings include mozzarella rolls, tender steak and flan (with dulce de leche – of course!). The dinner is held in a dining room across the street and attendees are moved to the theater after.
Upon entering the small, dark theater, it is as if you are traveling back in time. The lights dim and the band appears with a piano, bass, violin and tango accordion. The women dancers have several sets with different traditional tango costumes and are accompanied by men dancers in suits and top hats. The performance reaffirmed by belief that I am much better off watching tango than attempting to learn and dance myself.
El Viejo Almacén offers dinner and tango shows every week throughout the year.
If you are interested in learning to dance the tango in Buenos Aires, there are several options such as Salón Canning in Palermo and El Beso in Once, as well as traditional, and less formal, venues (called “milongas”) such as La Viruta in Palermo or La Catedral de Tango.
For more information about Buenos Aires tours, visit Say Hueque