Since before we even arrived in Argentina, I wanted to see tango performed by professionals, up close, and personal-like, plus have a lesson at a milonga (tango hall), in a sleepy backwater town. The last bit no doubt inspired by the film ‘Patagonia’.
Sunday’s street dancers in San Telmo had furthered our desire to see a show, although I am sure purist would argue there is nowt proper about show that is just put on for touristas, but what the hell!
We booked at one of the older established and although we weren’t expecting anything amazing on the culinary front (supper was included) we were hoping to see a great show that gave us an insight into both the history and mystery surrounding tango.
Result! As we arrived, we were ushered to a ring-side table; one of, if not the best seats in the house! Having heard the wines (included) was closer to a balsamic we asked for the wine list; our waiter, Diego, kindly suggested we give the house wines a go, before upgrading. Happy he did, as the Aberdeen Angus (!!!) was actually more than palatable. And the hits just kept on rolling…. The tenderloin and pork fillet we ordered were cooked to perfection.
Our evening, just got better as the stage show, lived up to and exceeded our expectations….. An old crooner and chanteuse opened, warming up the audience with their plaintive and heartfelt melodies re-living stories of days gone by. From the bars, gaming houses and bordellos of Buenos Aires, a dance was created that blended machismo, passion and longing for the women left behind by immigrants and other working men.
Decent woman and families of good reputation wanted nothing to do with this perceived vulgar dance and brothel workers would have to be paid; men wanting to improve their moves on the dance floor (and to impress the ladies) would have had to practice with each other…
Boarding houses, and more importantly the yards around these spaces became the place to learn these moves and (saucy) lyrics attached. Over time the dance was taught to sisters, cousins, neighbour’s female family members and sought out and danced at family gatherings for immigrants and Argentines alike. A cleaner version emerged that was taken by the middle class Argentines holidaying and partying with the equally rich and famous across Paris and London. It because the craze of the time
Eyes smouldering, chests pressed together, legs invading each other’s space with perfect synchronicity and lightening speed, the dancers depicted the very best of tango – the subtle change in style from it’s infancy, through to the 1920’s and it’s ‘legitimisation’ across Europe, to ‘modern’ day sultry expression.
Buenos Aires, is the birthplace of tango and our hearts had been well and truly captivated.