Friday, February 13, 2009

Tango Excursion!


You can't go anywhere in Buenos Aires without being confronted by tango in some form or another. I've read that Argentina is the birthplace of tango, originating in the streets amongst the immigrant populations during the late 19th century. Walking down the street I hear the familiar sounds of tango music blaring from a passing taxi, I see stores selling tango shoes scattered here and there. Posters advertising shows, studios, or lessons pop up just about everywhere I go.

San Telmo is the neighborhood known for its tourist attracting tango shows. This is where we decided to go for our tango excursion. Now, these shows are a dime a dozen in San Telmo. You pretty much just walk around until you find one that appeals to you most. These shows are all unique and there is a good amount of variety to choose from. You can see a show at a small little mom and pop type of venue. Or, you could choose to see a more grandiose tango production. You can find shows that include dinner with the price of your ticket, which is what we did, or you can find shows that include a couple of drinks.

We followed Tony around for a few blocks while he scoped out the spots. We settled on a show that included dinner, although I hear after the fact that the food is usually bad. Luckily, our food was not terrible. We arrived a little late and the show started about 15 minutes after our arrival so we had to eat in the dark.

Our chosen venue had about 30 tables that surrounded three sides of a small stage. I gather that this place is run by an elderly couple that were obviously overseeing things. The decor and costumes had a sort of dated feel. It was a very intimate setting with people from all over the world (the host of the show inquired about where everyone lived, we were the only Americans!)

This tango show was great, very flashy and showy. They had a tango band of piano, violin, bandoneon, and double bass. The bandonean is the coolest instrument. It is a square shaped sibling of the accordion that is played sitting down. The sound comes from pushing and pulling the instrument while pressing buttons. It appears to be played over the bandoneonist's leg and that the sound is also manipulated by leg movements. I have definitely never seen this instrument in the United States.

The show was a mixture of tango dance and song. Three couples danced and there were three different singers. Each of the dancers and singers had their own unique style. I am surprised at how important the tango music is to the culture of Buenos Aires. Tango music seems to be more popular here than the dance. Many people sing tango and it seems that everyone listens to it. I never realized before spending time here that the music of tango is an art form all its own.

We had a great time at the show. After it was over the lights came on and the dancers came down and brought people from the audience to dance on stage. We tried not to get chosen as none of us dance very well. After Tony's urging I got up and danced with the waiter for the last few minutes of the song. It was pretty hilarious and very memorable. I only wish someone had gotten a picture when he dipped me.

(thanks for the photos Bennett!)

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