My mum, a fanatical viewer of the UK BBC television show Strictly Come Dancing wanted to see a tango show when she was in Buenos Aires.
Yes, we’d taken her to a real live milonga which she loved, but let’s face it, there are no Strictly-style high kicks in that department are there… well, unless it’s La Viruta on a Sunday night, and hanging out in a dark scruffy basement at 3 in the morning is a bit much to ask of non tango dancing folks in their seventies – these days it’s a step too far even for me. But a tourist tango show? Carlos looked like he’d rather sit in a government office for three hours waiting for his number to be called. That’s because we’ve seen the insides of a few tango theatres in our time: paid a fortune, eaten a fancy sounding but cardboard tasting meal, watched the story of tango played out by a handful of talented dancers, singers and musicians, but left the place unmoved and swearing that we won’t do it again – we, because we dance, obviously prefer the social tango scene of the milongas in this great city, for less than a tenth of the price.
My mum, ever generous however, offered to pay. Ah well then, for her… we decided we would do it one more time. Oh but where to bestow our circa $1200pesos for four? A toughie.
Of the more upmarket shows (suitable for parents treating their daughters that is) I’ve already seen Piazzolla Tango which at the time cost $260pesos per head for the whole package (to be considered if you are into quirky theatres because its in an underground place of architectural merit opened in 1915 beneath Galería General Guemes on Florida), but it’s for lovers of Piazzolla. Once was enough for us.
D’Arienzo is more my cup of tea. So from my mountain of brochures collected over months, I picked La Ventana, located at Balcarce 431, San Telmo. The website tells you bugger all (special effects and flashplayers are far too popular for my liking these days), but we used the phone to check it really would be D’Arienzo and to make the booking. We opted to skip the dinner and the price dropped from $290pesos to $190pesos per punter. Cool. I spent the rest of the day making sure my mum’s expectations also fell a notch or two: the stage won’t be the NEC, there’ll probably only be four dancers, we’re not having dinner so we’ll get a terrible seat… he who expecteth nothing shall not be disappointed as my mum’s mum always used to say. I was in for a shock.
At La Ventana I watched my dad basking like a Cheshire cat in his front row seat. His eyes were glued to the premium tanguera-stocking-clad pins that flew inches from his head and sent a stiff breeze through his white hair. He had the look of a little boy told he could eat the whole tub of icecream instead of a plate of green peas. My mum’s mouth was fixed in the widest grin I’ve ever seen on her face. ‘Impresivo’ Strictly-style tango acrobatics? Yes. Meanwhile, attentive waiters offered us champagne, wine, coke for me, coffees… as much as we wanted, all included. We indulged like kings and queens.
When the tango music took a breather and Los Laikas graced the stage, the unexpected treat of their panpiped melodies mixed with Bolivian zest carried me to the heights of the Andes that we’d driven through just a few days before. I am not joking (and I hope he won’t mind me saying) but I saw C. cry. I hugged him. Then there was a big announcement. Carlos turned to me. “I know. I know,” I said. We were about to hit the D’Arienzo lovers’ jackpot square on.
Afterwards C. told me that he thought the woman he’d spoken to on the phone had mentioned something about a bandoneon maestro, but he hadn’t really caught the drift… too busy unsuccessfully trying to secure a discount. What she had been attempting to say was that the headline orchestra would be led by Juan Carlos Lazzari: the one and only, who many years ago played with Juan D’Arienzo, in 2008 starred in Café de Los Maestros and in our moment together in La Ventana, strutted his eighty-plus year old musical stuff for us like a twenty-something with attitude… Bloody hell that bandoneon came alive on his knee as his foot stamped the floor and his hands sent La Cumparsita direct to our hearts. I couldn’t tell you what the tango was like because I was watching Lazzari. Was it possible that even a ray of the ghost in him could be transmitted to a little tango dancing adventurer like me? I tried to magic myself into a sponge.
Our little party rolled out into Balcarce clutching our Los Laikas CDs and we didn’t stop enthusing all the way home. Talk about not being disappointed. We wanted to go back and watch it all over again the very next day.
This week in a twist of synchronicity, the universe remembered our trip to La Ventana: TangoCherie invites her readers to vote on the best tango show in Buenos Aires; I start thinking about writing this post; Carlos gets a call from a stranger for a gasista job, arrives to the client, finds himself amongst not only pipes you solder but pipes you play and realises that he is in fact talking to one of the very men who brought tears to his eyes in La Ventana. He came home from work with his eyes shining, insisting that we play our Los Laikas CD long into the night. Our spirits soared into the peaks of the Andes all over again.
It was the inspiration I needed. Someone up there definitely wants me to tell you that in the great search for the best tango show in town, you should consider Carlos Lazzari and Los Laikas while they’re still performing on the same Buenos Aires stage. I am sure that the tango is great too, but to my eyes these boys were the stars. Check first of course, to avoid disappointment.
And you, you La Ventana boys and girls, if you’re reading, how about two free invites so Me and C. can share the magic all over again? That’d be wicked.
PS. On the matter of the Love Verb Thing, when you ask your supporters, many of whom you have never met, to do something for you and they do, it’s magic. It isn’t about the outcome is it? It’s about what you learn on the way. What I’m learning is that I’ve got you. It means mucho. Mucho. You can keep an eye on how we’re doing here. And please do all you can to encourage other fans to do the Love Verb Thing too. A hug to you all. SC.
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