With so many tango shows in Buenos Aires offering everything from broadway spectaculars to intimate theatre experiences, it’s nice to still have the option of an authentic and bohemian tango show in a historic building. El Viejo Almacén offers just that.
The laid-back vibe attracts not just tourists looking for a traditional tango experience, but also locals and tango enthusiasts who appreciate the authenticity of this long-running tango show.
Authentic El Viejo Almacén
One of the most appealing aspects of El Viejo Almacén, besides the tango show itself, is its location. It is housed in the historic neighbourhood of San Telmo, on the corner of Independencia and Balcarce. The building dates back to the early 18th century. First a warehouse, then a hospital for injured soldiers, the building started becoming a place of cultural importance in the early twentieth century when people would come to listen to popular music. Around 1969, it started gaining its reputation for tango, attracting many big names in tango at the time. Today it maintains this reputation as it continues to honour the tango’s roots in the heart of Buenos Aires.
The Dining Experience
The tango show at El Viejo Almacén can be booked with dinner. This takes place at the tango house’s restaurant, in a building opposite the historic theatre. This outwardly modest building echoes the simple architecture of the original building while the interior is elegantly decorated. You will be seated in one of the three intimate dining rooms, spanning different floors of the restaurant. A 3-course meal awaits you with multiple options for each course.
I tried the leek soup starter, which was just what I needed to warm up and a cold winter’s night. This was followed by the house classic: bife de chorizo, a sumptuous piece of steak, and topped off by a delicious chocolate mousse. The food was delicious, as was the red wine included in the meal. There is also the option of beer and sodas.
The Tango Show
After dinner, we were escorted the few metres across the road to the old ‘tangueria’ – the tango house. It’s a simple and intimate building, with a compact first floor and an upper balcony for those who book the VIP service. A small stage is the centre of attention with its painted backdrop of the building’s exterior. The size of the theatre allows you an up-close view of all the action and adds to the intimate nature of the tango. It also gives you a chance to take photos, something that not all tango houses allow.
A waiter came around to take our drinks order. 2 complimentary glasses of the drink of your choice are included (the options are champagne, wine, beer, or a non-alcoholic drink). Then we were ready to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
El Viejo Almacén’s tango show is divided into two halves. This first act consists of traditional tango and Milonga dances, recalling tango’s roots. In between dances, the band also plays tango classics, and a wonderful singer entertains with memorable tango songs. The mid-show number is perhaps the most memorable of any tango house I’ve been to. A folklore group from Northern Argentina performs with traditional songs from this part of the country. It’s an upbeat part of the show which highlights another important cultural aspect of Argentina and added a special element to the show.
The second act of the show gives way to individual couples performing sensual routines in the style of neo-tango. This is the tango more familiar to many from movies and dancing shows, filled with incredible legwork, spins and lifts, and oozing seduction with every step. Another highlight from the second act is one of the singer’s getting the whole audience to sing along to a classic tango number.
The audience interaction and small setting make this tango show a unique experience. While it doesn’t have the grand theatrics of many other tango houses, the show is anything but dull. The one and a half hour show is captivating from start to finish, with a little bit of something for everyone. You’re sure to leave like I did, feeling like you just witnessed and took part in a truly authentic tango experience.
By: Nicole Eberhard