After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tourist Tango Shows in Buenos Aires

My introduction to Argentine tango dance (I was already familiar with some of the music) was, as with so many people outside of Argentina, via a touring tango show. Around 1988 I saw Tango Argentino with my late husband at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

Several years later I signed up for a series of eight Argentine tango lessons in West Hollywood taught by Linda Valentino. Immediately after completing the course, I went on a group tour to Buenos Aires, one of the very first of its kind, organized by Daniel Trenner. From then on I saw every tango show that came to town, my favorite being Forever Tango because of Gavito and the Sexteto Major. On that tour to BsAs in 1997, we went to a tango show in Michelangelo in San Telmo, and I was thrilled because the same stars of Tango Argentino I had seen in Los Angeles, Gloria y Eduardo Arquinbau (my neighbors here in Boedo in a marvelous alignment of the planets), headlined the show. During the tour we also had a group class with them in La Ideal.

But with the years and lots of experience, I came to realize that one tango show is more or less like another, especially to those who had no experience with what is the real tango. Nor does show dancing have anything to do with the social tango of Buenos Aires.

Folks are always asking me which tango show in Buenos Aires is the most "authentic!" And I reply honestly that none of them are. But some are better than others, depending on what you like. For me, the orchestra is the most important element, and the more bandoneones the better! Especially for tourists who never get the opportunity to hear this amazing instrument live.

When my kids came to town a couple of weeks ago, I faced the dilemma of choosing a show to take them to--it's all part of the tourist experience, right? Ruben and I were invited by students a few years ago to Esquina Carlos Gardel, and while there were several good things about it, the general impression was that the people are herded in and out like on an E Ticket ride at Disneyland: pose with the tango dancers, eat your dinner, buy the photos and videos, get out and board the bus before the next show.

I had heard that my fellow-blogger SallyCat took her parents to La Ventana and they loved it, so I contacted my friend Cesar at TangoTix and made the reservations. (It's a great website to compare and contrast the various tango shows, read reviews and purchase tickets.)

Our first course of ensalada Caprese

The dinner was good, although when Connie asked for some butter the waiter said there wasn't any.

What I liked best about La Ventana was the superb "D'Arienzo" orchestra with four bandoneones that played in the second half. There also was an excellent folklore quartet to finish off the first part, unusual for a tango show. The gaucho with the dynamite voleadoras had what the ten tango dancers did not: charisma and personality. He didn't dance the genuine "malambo" of the gauchos, but he gave a real performance and woke up the audience. (His name was also Ruben! Here he is with us after the show.)

The problem with the show's tango dancing was that each number had the same energy, same steps, the same frantic, robotic level. For me, despite the nailed spectacular final poses, they could all have phoned it in. Boring. There wasn't even the obligatory brothel scene in lingerie or humorous milonga number for variety, or even a vals! It was just fast tango after fast gancho/voleo/lift/spin in sexy gowns with no emotion or reason for being. The wardrobe, however, was gorgeous.

Some folks were critical of the Evita "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" number--well it is a bit weird to include a London show tune--but I didn't mind all the flag waving. The male singer was excellent, the woman singer mas o menos.

But everyone looks for something different. I read on TripAdvisor that some folks loved the dancing and hated the folklore.

At night the front of La Ventana looks like a Criollo wedding cake, but despite the glamor of the lighting and flags, next door is an incredible old brick building that attracts more attention. I remembered this site at Balcarce 433 as the place of the Michelangelo Tango Show I attended in 1997. Now it's a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant named "M."! (Connie and I went in for a look-see and it's a gorgeous, sexy bar-restaurant, but almost nobody was there at midnight. A shame.)

La Ventana's impressive main show room was not too big and each table had a good view of the stage. All in all it was an enjoyable evening that was not too expensive, as these things go. The show was saved for Ruben and me by the folklore and the orchestra, but Jason and Connie liked the whole thing.

What do you think of tango shows? Do you attend them where you live? Do you go when in Buenos Aires? Which one was your favorite?


Anonymous said...

Hi Cherie,
I started dancing before I saw my first show, which was Tango por dos, in London. I really loved it. The second time, 2 yrs later, it was a bit flat. Then I saw Tango Fire. Just one acrobatic dance after the other. No slow tangos or vals were danced, just speed. I was exhausted watching by the break. The orchestra was very good and the lead singer was Javier from Sexteto Milonguero. The second time, mi Amor took me in Brighton and the dancing was better but the singer was not. I will probably try and see any new show that appears in London or Brighton at least once. I wish we got dinner too!

Anonymous said...

I went to Esquina Carlos Gardel on my first vist to Buenos Aires. For me it was just a waste of an evening, but we were on a tour and at least the Brazilian tourists kept us entertained.
I always advise people to visit the milongas, they are not only more authentic, but also a lot cheaper.
BTW coming soon, I will be in touch, Bob