Buenos Aires ‘tango’ shows

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My wife, Judy, and I and two friends took a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November ’05. We stayed at the Wilton Plaza, having arranged our reservations through a Peruvian online travel service (e-mail reservations@argentinas-hotels.com).

As soon as we arrived, we had — out of the blue — an e-mail message waiting for us at the hotel desk from the office of an English-speaking guide, Maximiliano (call me “Max”) Lopez (maxlop@argentina.com). This was followed by a call while we were unpacking. I gathered that he had been referred to us by the Internet travel service.

We were all tango enthusiasts and had attended top-notch tango performances — in all their dramatic and sensual beauty — in New York, in our hometowns and/or 10 years previously in Buenos Aires.

We met Max on the morning of the 10th in the lobby of the hotel and asked for the “Maduro Tango Tour”; we had heard good things about it. Max insisted that the “Piazzolla Tango Tour” was the best tango show in town. In his lifetime, Piazzolla had been an outstanding tango performer, and we assumed that a group bearing his name would carry on his tradition and high standards. (The other tango shows that Max was touting, with prices per person (and including transportation and dinner), were “Senor Tango,” $64; “Esquina C. Gardel,” $70; “Michelangelo,” $53; “La Ventana,” $60; “Complejo Tango,” $46, and “El Viejo Almacen,” $51.)

We paid Max directly in U.S. dollars for four tickets (he demanded a 10% surcharge for any payment by credit card). It cost our group of four over $200. We had great expectations.

The next day we were driven in a van to a theater on Florida Street for the tango show. Although we had made it very clear to Max that we were interested only in tango, most of that evening’s performance was devoted to singing. There were two singers, one male and one female, and they took turns singing passionate, contemporary songs, entirely in Spanish.

As singers, I rated them so-so. Those in the audience who spoke Spanish applauded politely; those of us who did not sat on our hands. There was an outcry from the English speakers for at least one song in a language they could understand. The male singer condescended with the first two lines from “My Way.” It was that kind of an evening.

In the brief interludes between the singers’ doing their gigs in turn, some young acrobatic dancers took the stage. They performed lifts with their partners and did a muscular type of dancing that bore as much resemblance to tango as to hiphop. They tried hard, but they were not the polished performers we had come to expect. I would describe the dancing as Broadway show style with some ballet touches. It was anything but tango.

We called Max the next day to protest, but he insisted that this tour was top-of-the-line tango. We discussed the tango tour with the staff at our hotel. They smiled knowingly and told us that it was not real tango; it was just a show for the tourists.

After returning home, I e-mailed the Internet travel service to express our unhappiness, and on Nov. 28 I received a reply. They denied any role in having Max contact us and kindly suggested that we file a complaint with the department of tourism at the Argentine Consulate. We did so, and our communication was acknowledged on Dec. 7. Our contact was Mrs. Ines Segarra, Director of Argentina Tourism Information (12 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019).

I finally spoke to Mrs. Segarra and, to my dismay, she informed me that all the tango presentations in Buenos Aires are along the lines of a “Hollywood style” tango, not like the show “Tango Tonight” which appeared on stage throughout the United States.

All the guidebooks I had read led me to believe that the tango, as we knew and loved it, was alive and well in Buenos Aires. She stated flatly that there are no longer any professional tango performances and that my best bet would be to visit some of the tango dance halls, such as La Ideal or Café Tortoni, and watch the swivel-hipped amateurs trying to effortlessly glide across the dance floor.

This comes as a complete surprise to me. It would be like visiting New York and not being able to see a Broadway play.

Mrs. Segarra also spoke to Max Lopez. He said that the Peruvian Internet travel service had been in touch with a local tour operator in Buenos Aires who had given him our names. I wouldn’t want poor Max to be depicted as a scam artist when he’s only an ordinary guide trying to get by.

It seems professional tango teams are a thing of the past. It’s too bad that good tango and Buenos Aires are no longer synonymous.

RAYMOND R. KISCH
Rock Island, IL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My wife, Judy, and I and two friends took a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November ’05. We stayed at the Wilton Plaza, having arranged our reservations through a Peruvian online travel service (e-mail reservations@argentinas-hotels.com).

As soon as we arrived, we had — out of the blue — an e-mail message waiting for us at the hotel desk from the office of an English-speaking guide, Maximiliano (call me “Max”) Lopez (maxlop@argentina.com). This was followed by a call while we were unpacking. I gathered that he had been referred to us by the Internet travel service.

We were all tango enthusiasts and had attended top-notch tango performances — in all their dramatic and sensual beauty — in New York, in our hometowns and/or 10 years previously in Buenos Aires.

We met Max on the morning of the 10th in the lobby of the hotel and asked for the “Maduro Tango Tour”; we had heard good things about it. Max insisted that the “Piazzolla Tango Tour” was the best tango show in town. In his lifetime, Piazzolla had been an outstanding tango performer, and we assumed that a group bearing his name would carry on his tradition and high standards. (The other tango shows that Max was touting, with prices per person (and including transportation and dinner), were “Senor Tango,” $64; “Esquina C. Gardel,” $70; “Michelangelo,” $53; “La Ventana,” $60; “Complejo Tango,” $46, and “El Viejo Almacen,” $51.)

We paid Max directly in U.S. dollars for four tickets (he demanded a 10% surcharge for any payment by credit card). It cost our group of four over $200. We had great expectations.

The next day we were driven in a van to a theater on Florida Street for the tango show. Although we had made it very clear to Max that we were interested only in tango, most of that evening’s performance was devoted to singing. There were two singers, one male and one female, and they took turns singing passionate, contemporary songs, entirely in Spanish.

As singers, I rated them so-so. Those in the audience who spoke Spanish applauded politely; those of us who did not sat on our hands. There was an outcry from the English speakers for at least one song in a language they could understand. The male singer condescended with the first two lines from “My Way.” It was that kind of an evening.

In the brief interludes between the singers’ doing their gigs in turn, some young acrobatic dancers took the stage. They performed lifts with their partners and did a muscular type of dancing that bore as much resemblance to tango as to hiphop. They tried hard, but they were not the polished performers we had come to expect. I would describe the dancing as Broadway show style with some ballet touches. It was anything but tango.

We called Max the next day to protest, but he insisted that this tour was top-of-the-line tango. We discussed the tango tour with the staff at our hotel. They smiled knowingly and told us that it was not real tango; it was just a show for the tourists.

After returning home, I e-mailed the Internet travel service to express our unhappiness, and on Nov. 28 I received a reply. They denied any role in having Max contact us and kindly suggested that we file a complaint with the department of tourism at the Argentine Consulate. We did so, and our communication was acknowledged on Dec. 7. Our contact was Mrs. Ines Segarra, Director of Argentina Tourism Information (12 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019).

I finally spoke to Mrs. Segarra and, to my dismay, she informed me that all the tango presentations in Buenos Aires are along the lines of a “Hollywood style” tango, not like the show “Tango Tonight” which appeared on stage throughout the United States.

All the guidebooks I had read led me to believe that the tango, as we knew and loved it, was alive and well in Buenos Aires. She stated flatly that there are no longer any professional tango performances and that my best bet would be to visit some of the tango dance halls, such as La Ideal or Café Tortoni, and watch the swivel-hipped amateurs trying to effortlessly glide across the dance floor.

This comes as a complete surprise to me. It would be like visiting New York and not being able to see a Broadway play.

Mrs. Segarra also spoke to Max Lopez. He said that the Peruvian Internet travel service had been in touch with a local tour operator in Buenos Aires who had given him our names. I wouldn’t want poor Max to be depicted as a scam artist when he’s only an ordinary guide trying to get by.

It seems professional tango teams are a thing of the past. It’s too bad that good tango and Buenos Aires are no longer synonymous.

RAYMOND R. KISCH
Rock Island, IL