Tango time in Buenos Aires

By Joyce A. Bruck
This item appears on page 15 of the May 2013 issue.

While passing through Buenos Aires, I went to an expensive tango show performed in the dance style they use for competitions and professional entertainment. For a February ’11 visit several years later, I decided that, instead of being a spectator, I wanted to go to a milongas del barrio (neighborhood tango club) to tango with the locals.

Tourists snapped pictures of tango dancers on Plaza Dorrego in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires.

In the weeks before I left home, I took several lessons in Argentine tango — very different from what we think of as tango in the United States. I was already ahead of the game, since I ballroom dance and had taken a few tango lessons several years previously.

After researching in guidebooks such as Fodor’s and Frommer’s, I checked out the website of and made reservations at Mansíon Dandi Royal (Piedras 922/936, San Telmo C1070AAT, Buenos Aires, Argentina; phone +54 11 4361 3537, fax 4361 6021), a restored, historic-mansion hotel in the centrally located San Telmo district.

They reserved for me private car service from the international airport to the hotel ($40) and, the next day, to the local airport ($25). 

The 30-room hotel has a tango theme, with beautiful frescoes plus antique furniture in the public areas as well as in the rooms. My buffet breakfast, included with the room rate (currently $92-$116 double to $136-$230 suite), was a delicious combination of café con leche, a ham-and-cheese omelet, wonderful small cakes and fresh fruit.

Tourists snapped pictures of tango dancers on Plaza Dorrego in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires.

During my one day there, I revisited the historic Caminito street in the neighborhood La Boca. It’s known for colorful sheet-metal buildings, restaurants and tango-practice sessions with demonstrations by local dancers. (Note: it is best not to go at night.) In the same area, I walked to see a Russian church. 

That afternoon, I took one of the small-group tango lessons that were being given at the hotel for about $8 per hour. With that, the instructors then found me a “taxi dancer” to escort me to a club and dance with me for $100. 

This was Luis Maldonado Zarate (cell phone 0054 11 4771 4512 or [+549] 11 6130 5846 or email luisbailatango@yahoo.com or luisdetango@hotmail.com). Luis speaks some English and also provides transfers to/from the airports. I suggest making arrangements in advance. (As of December 2012, Luis was still available as a dance partner.)

At the club, Bailes de Salon “El Aguante” (Av. San Juan 3330; for a reservation, phone 15 6724 7359 or email elaguante.el@gmail.com), I was among a hundred or more locals squeezed onto the dance floor. Since I had taken only a few lessons, I was not very adept, and as the crowd pressed against us Luis stepped on my toes several times, but that didn’t seem to bother either of us.


Luis seemed to enjoy dancing with me, and we even danced past the agreed-upon time. He even invited me out afterward for the local specialty, empanadas. It was a great experience. 

Other dancers can be reached through the instructors at the hotel, or you can take lessons and dance at the Dandi Royale or other hotels and studios. Some tango schools are listed at www.1234tango.com.

One caution — upon arriving in Buenos Aires, I went to the Citibank ATM in the airport and got local currency. Later, in town, I took a cab to the street Caminito, then handed the driver a few bills. But he handed some of them back, saying they were counterfeit and asking me for other bills. 

In hindsight, I believe he may have done a “fast switch,” keeping the good money while giving me counterfeit, but I will never know. 


Ocean Ridge, FL