A tango show should be on your list of must-see experiences in Buenos Aires

Travels with Deb
April 29, 2024 at 6:00 a.m.
Photo by Debbie Stone
Photo by Debbie Stone


Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America,” is the lively capital of Argentina. Dynamic and culturally rich, it’s a place of colorful history, neoclassical architecture, incredible food and wine, diverse neighborhoods and natural greenspaces. Combining old and new, traditional and cosmopolitan, the city beckons visitors from across the globe.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The arts flourish in Buenos Aires, which is home to great poets, painters, musicians and dancers. Most famous, perhaps, is its tango scene, as here is where the Argentinian dance form originated back in the mid-19th century. European immigrants are credited with its creation and its roots lie in a cultural meld of Cuban habanera, African candombe, waltz, polka and other traditional dances.

Former slaves and working and lower classes brought tango into the streets out of a need to find comfort and as a way to express the longing for what they had left behind. The dance felt like home to those who were far from their homelands. Later, it extended to the whole society and became tied to the city’s cultural identity.

Photo by Debbie Stone

By the 1930s, tango had taken Buenos Aires and the rest of the world by storm. Its meteoric rise was no surprise, as it had all the ingredients to ensure popularity – romance, nostalgia, passion and sizzling sensuality, not to mention impressive creativity.

Tango has also played an important role in shaping the country’s history. It’s seen as a symbol of resilience and unity, a means for Argentinians to celebrate their triumphs, as well as deal with their struggles and challenges together.

Photo by Debbie Stone

At one point, however, tango was denounced as degenerate and immoral. Because the dance is performed in a daringly close embrace, it provoked alarm and criticism in its opponents. This led to the government banning it from public areas for a period of time. Fortunately, art is persistent and relentless, an unstoppable form of creative expression, and the Argentine tango was able to persevere for the ages.

Today, the city remains the world capital of tango and offers visitors many opportunities to see performances. There are professional stage productions, tango-themed cafes and milongas. The latter are traditional social gatherings where amateur dancers gather, often looking for the ideal partner. They may be held in an elegant hall, a community center or bar.

Those who tango emphasize that it’s more than a dance style – more than just fancy steps. It’s “a secret danced between two people” that relies on intuition and connection between the dancers. They say that tango is felt in the heart and not the feet.

Photo by Debbie Stone

On a recent trip to Buenos Aires, I watched tango dancers in the streets, strutting their moves primarily for tourists’ entertainment (and tips). As I wanted to see much more of this sultry dance, I opted to spend an evening at La Ventana.

Located in San Telmo, an important historic area in Buenos Aires, where the cobblestoned streets will take you back in time to recreate the days of yore, you’ll find La Ventana. The building was an old tenement house that you might find in the late 1800s, but has been fully restored and is now one of the most prestigious tango show venues in the city.

You can choose to enjoy a sumptuous three-course dinner prior to the show or arrive later for the show itself and there’s an option for pick-up and drop-off transportation from your hotel for easy convenience.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The dinner was good, offering several selections for each course. The steak entrée was most popular by the looks of people’s plates steak as in Argentina, steak reigns supreme. And of course, there was wine, a tasty, full-bodied Malbec. This wine has become synonymous with Argentina and turned it into a household name. Interesting to note, is that Argentina leads production of the grape with over 75% of all the acres of Malbec in the world.

The two-hour, memorable show was comprised of a live orchestra playing traditional instruments, along with professional singers and amazing dancers, a total of 32 artist. The dancers were mesmerizing, as they performed bold acrobatic type moves at a whip-quick pace, while exuding fiery passion. It was amazing to me how in sync the couples were and how they executed the intricate steps with such sharp precision.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The orchestra was equally as impressive, performing both tango and folk music with instruments such as the “charango” (a stringed instrument similar to a lute) and the “bandoneon,” a unique accordion-like instrument that produces the authentic and emotional sound of tango.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The main singers, one man and one woman, had strong melodic voices, adding quality to the overall production. The woman brought down the house when she sang a great rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” a well-known song from “Evita,” the musical and film. Her powerful voice stirred the audience to a rising ovation.

A “boleadoras” twirling gaucho was another highlight. The boleadoras is a type of weapon, a throwing device, that gauchos traditionally used to catch cattle and other animals. It consists of two or three balls of stone, lined with leather, and tied to two ropes joined by a common rope. Years ago, boleadoras were introduced as a musical instrument.

As I watched this performer spin his boleadoras around at breakneck speeds in different configurations, it made my head spin. I couldn’t take my eyes off him and the sounds of the stone balls slapping the stage floor created an exciting percussion, which accompanied the performer’s rhythmical footwork. He created tension through his intensity and energy, resulting in a spellbinding and hypnotic act.

Photo by Debbie Stone

If after seeing such a tango show, you’re motivated to give the tango a go, know there are plenty of schools in the city offering classes. Some have sessions geared specifically towards visitors who just want a taste of this fascinating art form. To truly learn this challenging dance, however, takes time, practice, skill and talent. And the right partner!


Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications.
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