Tango is synonymous with Argentina, and taking in a Tango show is often on the “must-do” list of many travelers and visitors to Buenos Aires. And as such, it is of no surprise that experiencing tango in Buenos Aires was high on our list as well.
When we first arrived and were discovering the city, it seemed like everywhere we turned there was a reference to Tango in some capacity. Whether it was a Tango shoe store in our neighborhood, Tango steps on the streets or pictures of Charles Gardel (one of the greatest Tango singers with cult-like status in Latin America) everywhere, you can’t help but want to experience Tango.
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A Two Hour Wait For Tango Tickets
Trying to decide how to experience Tango was actually quite daunting. We were quite clear that we did not want a touristy dinner and Tango show package. We were fortunate enough to have two things working in our favor. First, we are staying with bona-fide porteños (people from Buenos Aires) who also happen to love Tango and had the “in” on the places to check out. It was actually through them that we learned about free tickets given by the City to watch the finals, which was the second thing that worked in our favor.
The Tango Buenos Aires Festival and Dance World Cup 2015 was taking place from August 14th – August 27th, and the City of Buenos Aires was giving away for free 10,000 tickets for the final shows on the 26th & 27th of August. So, on Monday August 24th, Claire braced herself for the cool temperatures and waited in line for over 2 hours to get us tickets to the finals 🙂
The city was buzzing with Tango during the festival time period. There were shows and festivities all over the place and Tango was the predominant subject of conversation everywhere you went. Free classes, concerts and Expos provided by the City were hosted at the Usina del Arte cultural center, where we enjoyed the music and attempted to dance.
Going to the Tango World Championships Finals
The Tango finals were held over two days, which each day qualifying winners for the two different styles of Tango dancing. The venue for the finals was Luna Park, a huge multi-purpose stadium. We had seats up in the bleachers, but with a direct view of the stage. Not to mention there were large screens everywhere so regardless of seating, everyone had a great view.
The finals on August 26th were for the Dance Floor Tango (Tango Pista) category which is much more traditional in style.
The finals on August 27th were for Stage Tango (Tango Escenario) category, which is danced in an open embrace, exaggerated movements with some elements taken from ballet. This style is sometime also referred to as Fantasia.
Dance Floor Tango Category Finals
The Dance-Floor Tango finals started shortly after 7pm and with a presentation of all 41 couples dancing in sets of 10. The dancers came from 10 countries including; Argentina, Russia, South Korea, Columbia, Indonesia, Singapore, Italy, Venezuela, Greece and Japan.
The dancers were amazing and it was surprising to see older couples participating as well. Click here to see a short video on YouTube of the finalists of all ages. One of the other things that was wonderful to watch was the harmony of all the dancers together to stage. Incredible music and beautiful movements. Check out this short video here on our YouTube channel of some of the finalists.
Stage Tango Category Finals
Having seen the Tango finals the night before, we thought we knew what to expect from the Stage Tango category. Being newbies at Tango and not really knowing what “Stage Tango” is, we were in for a pleasant surprise.
In this category, there were only were 20 couples competing with each couple dancing to a Tango song of their choice. The majority of dancers came from Argentina and Russia and there was also representation from Columbia and Italy.
This was by far our favorite type of Tango. The was drama in the movements. One could sense the tension. Legs were lifted and twisted and there were many moves incorporating lifts, jumps and drops. The whole experience was sublime and the competition was extremely fierce.
Below is a short clip from the Argentinian winning couple who also happened to be our favorite dancers. Check out the equally amazing 2nd place winners here on our YouTube channel.
Getting a Local Experience – Queer Tango Milonga
One of the best ways and most authentic is to experience Tango is at a Milonga. A milonga is essentially a place where people gather to dance Tango, and there are hundreds scattered all over Buenos Aires. One Tuesday night, at about midnight (usual going out time in Buenos Aires) we made our way over to Queer Tango in San Telmo to experience a Milonga.
This particular Milonga was held at a theatre with a live band. There were people from all walks of life: local, international, young and old. Queer Tango is unique in that it allows the exchange of leader and follower roles, supporting female leaders and male followers. We didn’t have the courage to or skills to dance, but we appreciated the music and seeing dancers of varying skill levels up close.
On your next trip to Buenos Aires, be sure to take in a Tango show. Look for an authentic experience starting out with a Milonga show in San Telmo, one of the most important barrios for Tango or wherever you may be staying. While you are at it, take a few lessons and try out a few moves. This will fill your travels with memorable experiences!
Savor the Adventure!
Rosemary is a writer, culinary explorer, and digital nomad. Together with her partner, Claire, they created Authentic Food Quest to help people find the best local food on their travels. For over 5 years they have eaten their way through South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America while sharing the best local food experiences on their website. Authentic Food Quest has been featured on top publications such as Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Honest Cooking. Rosemary and Claire are also authors of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon. Prior to creating Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary worked as a strategy director in advertising for over 15 years.