Argentina is famed for three things, all of which it does brilliantly; steak, wine and tango. Saturday night saw us combining all three at the incredible We Are Tango show in Buenos Aires, with a three course meal, plenty of fantastic local wine, a tango show with live music, and our very own private tango lesson.
One thing that you simply cannot miss in Buenos Aires- the birthplace of tango – is a tango show, but with so many on offer it’s hard to know which to opt for. If you’re looking for the best, though, We Are Tango is ranked the Number 1 tango show on Tripadvisor, and it’s easy to see why. Billed as the most intimate tango show experience in Buenos Aires, We Are Tango is something like watching two friends who happen to be incredible at tango dance in their living room. On arrival, we were greeted by all the staff over a welcome drink of hesperedina – an Argentine spirit something like congac – and they chatted to us about the show (and the all-important England match), making us feel instantly at home.
The venue itself, in a difficult-to-find building in the Palermo district of BA, is pretty small; the dining room only had room for about 18-20 people at full capacity. As it was, we were two of nine, seated at tables right on the edge of the small dance floor, so intimate is exactly the right word. But that intimacy is exactly the right atmosphere for a tango show, making sure none of the passion or art of the dance is lost. With the simple, clean décor there are no distractions, and the history of tango is told in words and paintings on one of the walls, setting the scene beautifully.
At a tango show, you might think dinner would take second place to the dancing, but not so at We Are Tango. Every course was absolutely divine, with excellent wine to go with it – and the service was impeccable; since the wine at We Are Tango is unlimited our hostess made sure my glass was never empty. My French onion soup starter was delicious, smothered in thick cheese and a soggy bread topping, and really well flavoured, while Sam’s salmon tartar was also really tasty. For main, how could we choose anything but steak; an incredible filet medallion, melt-in-the-mouth soft and cooked to perfection, with a delicious mushroom and dijon sauce and creamy mashed potatoes.
After the second course was served, the show started, first with a performance from the live, traditional band. With just a guitar, double bass and bandoneon – an instrument similar to an accordion – the trio produced some amazing music, and the passion and immersion evident on their faces was completely spell-binding. Tango music seems to have a serious problem with mood swings, jumping from sad to happy, fast to slow, romantic to miserable in an erratic but clever way, which is really emotive. The musicians continued to play while a singer came on stage to perform some traditional tango songs. With the musicians just a few feet from our table, and only three other groups in the room, it felt like our very own private performance, which was a fantastic experience. The singer had a wonderful voice, rich and operatic, perfectly suited to the nostalgic tone of the music. Our host, Lucas, followed the music with an introduction to tango and the We Are Tango show, telling us “we believe that tango is a feeling, a thought, something that cannot be captured or contained”. A romantic sentiment, which the show really seemed to embrace.
Starting with the origins of tango, the show opened with a traditional dance from a gaucho – a mysterious figure something like an Argentine cowboy – an energetic, aggressive dance involving a lot of foot stomping, jingling of metal attachments on his leather boots, and loudly cracking a leather whip against his boots and palm. The next dance was a traditional tango, the man now dressed in a sharp, 1920’s style suit and trilby, his partner in a sleek red dress. The dancers were incredible, whipping round the dancefloor in tight spins so fast that sometimes all I could follow was the motion of the twirling red skirt and the flicking legs. I’d never seen tango performed live before, and the spectacle was breathtaking; the dancers were so fast they moved in a blur, and with Nadia’s forehead pressed almost constantly to her partner’s cheek they seemed to become one entity.
The story followed a simple theme: love – a man trying to win a lady’s heart – and it was perfect for such an intimate venue. Tango is such a romantic, passionate dance that at times, watching the couple twirl across the floor (sometimes just inches from our table) felt a little voyeuristic, as though we were spying on a couple lost in a private moment.
Dessert followed the first act; an incredible, nutty chocolate brownie for me smothered in red berry sauce and Argentine ice cream, and a surprisingly fruity coconut flan with maracuya sauce for Sam. Both were completely delicious, but it was hard to take our eyes off the dancers and live musicians in order to eat.
The culmination of the show was a short lesson, in which all the guests learnt a slightly tricky – and, for men, a little dangerous – move called The Hook, which involves the lady flicking her leg back between her partner’s legs. It was fun to try, and compared to the dancers we were all so terrible and clumsy that we couldn’t help but laugh. After our mini lesson, we had a few more songs from the live band, and the show finished with our wonderful dancers performing the most famous tango dance, La Cumparsita, which was absolutely beautiful.
We finished with a one hour tango lesson, but since all the other guests left at the end of the show we ended up having a completely private lesson. Sam and I cannot dance at all, and all the wine we’d been drinking didn’t help, but Nadia and Leonardo were really patient with us and by the end of the lesson we could just about manage the basic steps of the tango. Unfortunately, we were nowhere near as smooth as the professionals, instead clumping awkwardly around the dancefloor, but our teachers were really funny and we had a great time in spite of the embarrassingly bad dancing!
If you’re looking for a tango show in Buenos Aires, I whole heartedly recommend We Are Tango; fabulous food, wonderful staff and service, and an absolutely amazing show of music, song and breathtaking dance! The experience was simply wonderful.
We Are Tango have three shows a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at 7:15pm, although shows on other days may be held according to demand. The price for the full experience, including the show, unlimited wine, three course dinner and a lesson, is $140 USD per person. Book your experience here.
Want to know more about travelling in Argentina? Check out the Argentina section on my sister site, Backpack South America.