The sensuous signature dance of the Rio de la Plata—both Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay, have a legitimate claim to its ardent excess—is the tango. Born in the cities’ brothels in the 1880s, it inherited African candobe rhythm, Andalusian panache, and a love for French high heels and stylish suits that dates back to its decidedly “gangster” beginnings.
Today, tango is an almost entirely respectable pastime, complete with UNESCO world-heritage status and a global following. While you can find classes and shows in almost any major city on the planet, the absolute best spot to enjoy tango is here in the “Paris of the Americas,” where you can watch, learn, or just dance the night away.
Begin at a milonga, one of the city’s many traditional tango clubs, where the finest dancers are usually accompanied by a live orchestra and singer. The stage is set, the dance floor is open, and for those who don’t feel quite light enough on their feet to participate, tables where one can enjoy a bottle of fine Argentine malbec or delicious dinner.
Often, you’ll have the opportunity to indulge in a lesson from one of the evening’s performers. Learn the importance of posture, balance, and “walking” with the music, all of which allow even less graceful visitors to enjoy the basics of the dance. Gay travelers aren’t left out either; this is, after all, Argentina. Check the web for some of the city’s same-sex clubs dedicated to the dance.
The entire city erupts in a celebration of tango every December 11, the National Day of the Tango. Instituted in 1965, it is worth planning a trip around. But the biggest party is the Tango Festival y Mundial, when hundreds of thousands of people arrive in the port city for the “Tango World Cup,” a dance to the finish that leaves everyone glowing with excitement. Get tickets to watch the world’s best couples compete, or just enjoy the city streets alive with the music and dance for which Buenos Aires so justly famed.