The history of tango begins with an overabundance of men; specifically Italian and Spanish men who immigrated to Buenos Aires in the 1800s. They came seeking their fortunes and carried their guitars, violins, and music with them. Since the gentlemen outnumbered the ladies at this time, the seedy dock area bars and bordellos were extremely popular places to grab a bit of fun. The tango came about in the waterfront neighborhoods of La Boca and San Telmo as sort of a mating dance, a way to show off and woo loose women.
The tango was completely frowned upon by Argentina’s upper and middle classes in its early days (at least that’s what they claimed). But well to do Argentinians visiting Paris couldn’t resist demonstrating their tango moves. The Parisians loved it and in the early 1900s tango fever spread across Europe and then to the US.
Funny that it took the rest of the world to fall in love with tango for the dance to be more widely appreciated and accepted in its home country. With the status of tango musicians, singers, and dancers raised, a culture of codes and competitions developed. In the past, rivalries were so fierce at tango gatherings that they sometimes turned into riots.
This was our first time seeing tango live, and there is no better place to be initiated than Buenos Aires. We had considered getting tickets to one of the bigger Tango venues, but the more intimate and historical setting of Cafe Tortoni appealed to the romantic in me. It was dark and cozy, reminiscent of the gypsy caves of Granada, Spain.
“Dancing is creating a sculpture that is visible only for a moment.”
― Erol Ozan
Sitting at a front row table, arms length from the stage, I was able to capture a few sculptural moments.
The beautiful emotion of Veronica Virginia’s soulful voice reminded me of the fado singers we listened to late into the night in Lisbon’s Alfama.
A wonderful experience and definite highlight of our trip!