Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tango (The Dance of Passion) and a Tango Show (Tango Porteno)

What the exuberant samba is to Brazil so the tango is synonymous to Argentina and specifically Buenos Aires. Loneliness, despair and jealousy are all themes of tango song and the accompanying dance is all about Latin machismo, passionate and flamboyant. Tango is in the air in Buenos Aires and its melancholy sounds are everywhere. Whether it was from a construction worker who sang while he worked as I walked Winston every morning in Puerto Madero to a taxi driver who serenaded us as he drove us to Palermo Soho and La Cabrera, the tango melodies linger. The beginnings of the Buenos Aires love of tango comes from the immigrants who came in droves at the end of the 1800’s. Consisting of descendants from African slaves, boatloads of Italians and Spanish, and mostly male, they mixed their national music to create the tango sound and the dance, which came before lyrics were introduced to the music, was usually performed by two males. However it did not gain popularity with upper class Argentineans until it became accepted in Europe especially France. In 1917, Carlos Gardel became the first great tango singer when he recorded Mi Noche Triste. Although the arguments continue as to whether he was born in Uruguay or France (I’ll leave that to others), the Portenos embraced him and so tango became the rage. Due partly to an economic recession and a successive string of military dictatorships prohibiting public meetings, tango went into a decline in the 1950’s which continued through to the 1980’s when it’s slow revival started in Paris with the show “Tango Argentina”. Now it is in resurgence and the young people of Buenos Aires have come to accept it as a definite evolutionary part of their culture. Visit San Telmo or La Boca and you can hear and see tango in its many forms being performed on the street corners and in small restaurants. With this resurrection, there are now a plethora of tango shows being performed on stages and a visit to one for me was essential. Again we asked around and one kept popping up – Senor Tango. I checked them out online and it is touted as a “Las Vegas” style show, just seemed to touristy for my needs. I want tango, pure and simple. When we had visited the Teatro (Opera House) we had seen one called Tango Porteno. I checked online again and about one other La Ventana. After much agonizing, back and forth, and Tom finally saying “Please just choose one” I settled on Tango Porteno. Tickets were available online but with tickets starting at $45.00 for just the show or $78.00 for show and drinks (these seats are way back) up to $178.00 for VIP front row, we couldn’t decide on which level of tickets to purchase, so decided to wing it. There were also dinner options but these were really expensive and the food just didn’t seem that interesting to us considering the huge price difference. We arrived at around 9:45pm for the 10:30pm show, yes things start late in Argentina. We told the doorman that we had no tickets and he pointed to a lady, dressed in a 1940’s style costume. She showed us what was available, all price ranges and we looked and discussed. We went back and forth between %78.00 tickets, quite far from the stage to $108.00 which was closer. There were some good seats in the $178.00 range but we really didn’t want to spend that much. Finally she made our decision easy. If we paid for the $108 section, she would upgrade us to the VIP $178.00 seats and pointed to a table, front row and center. Deal and decided. We forked over $216.00 but would it be worth it? The theatre itself is a completed renovated Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie theatre and is beautiful. It has been restored in every detail in pure art deco from the 40’s. We were shown to our table and our waiter seated us and asked what we drank. Drinks are included in the ticket price but Tom gave him 100 pesos ($25.00) and said “I drink beer, my wife, red wine. Within 5 minutes an ice bucket with 6 beers and not one but two bottles of red wine in a separate bucket (no ice). As a side note, all the negative comments about this show online stemmed from complaints that they were seated at the back even though there were better seats available and bad service from either only getting poured one drink and then ignored and/or not getting an appetizer, which is also included. To those people, I offer my ideas. If all you pay for is a cheap seat, then that is what you get. Either ask for an upgrade (it never hurts to ask) or offer the maĆ®tre a little extra for a table closer to the stage and tip your waiter first! You won’t see him again after tonight and you want him to remember you, now. The drinks and appetizers may be included but good service is extra. And the show was spectacular. The meticulous scenery and gorgeous costumes create the ultimate effect of transporting you back in time to the reign of tango in the 40’s. The 12 piece orchestra was a joy to listen to and the dancers were just phenomenal. Two in particular one dance in which the female danced wearing a blindfold with only her partner to guide her through the truly intricate footwork and then another female dancer who danced a solo with a mannequin that she “brought to life”. The entire show was original and imaginative. There may be others in Buenos Aires that is as good but we were very happy with our choice. The taxi driver asked if we enjoyed the show and we both answered with an exuberant “absolutely” Tango may linger in the air in Buenos Aires but it will also stay with me as we travel south.

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