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In the spirit of Gardel: Esquina Carlos Gardel Tango Show Review

(Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)

Nestled on the corner opposite the grand Abasto shopping centre, in an area haunted by his ghost, Carlos Gardel stands proudly in front of the late “Chanta Cuarto” - a gorgeous turn of the century building that now houses the Cena & Tango Show ‘Esquina Carlos Gardel’.

Upon entering the theatre, the world transforms into the golden era of Buenos Aires, with staff clothed appropriately in glamorous sophisticated dress that only the 1930s can achieve. Gorgeously decorated Art Nouveau style, in caramels creams and warm chocolates, Esquina Carlos Gardel’s theatre ambience does sophistication without unnecessary opulence. The theatre has a sense of warmth, with family portraits lining the walls and larger images of Carlos Gardel’s smiling face. Split in 3 levels, the main floor tables are for Regular guests, while Executive guests have private tables and booths that are slightly elevated. The booths offer a cosy and more intimate experience. VIP tables and booths are on the 2nd level, offering an elevated view of the entire show.

As dinner is served before the show, we were encouraged to order soon after being seated in our booth by our waiter. After generously pouring us each a glass of red wine, we were left to peruse the menu. Menus are written in English, Spanish and Portugese and each main food type (white meat, red meat, fish and vegetarian) has at least one option in the entree and mains section.  Each dish is appropriately named after a Carlos Gardel song and we opted for starters of Mano a Mano (empanadas de carne) and Soledad (thyme and corn-cream soup), followed by Mi Buenos Aires Querido (the infamous Argentine steak) and Sus Ojos Se Cerraron (roasted Atlantic salmon).  

It is almost impossible to finish a glass of wine as attentive waiters are bustling past every few minutes to attend your needs and generously refill your glass.  While the waiters aren’t intrusive, this level of activity on the floor during the meal was occasionally distracting. However, considering the entire place seats over 450 people, the speed and professionalism shown by the staff meant every table was well attended and no patron was left waiting for either food or drink. When the show starts, every table is left with full drinks (both alcoholic and coffee if requested). Waiters try not to enter onto the floor during the show, so as not to distract or obstruct anyone's view.  Whilst the food is of a high quality and impeccable cooked, it seemed lacking a degree of flair in its presentation, which again, is understandable when so many tables order 3 courses within several minutes of each other. The presentation did not distract from the deliciousness of each plate and both my partner and I had no trouble polishing off all three delectable courses including our desserts - Recuerdo Malevo (assorted cheeses and fruit pastes) and Amagura (dark chocolate mousse).

What sets Esquina Carlos Gardel apart though, is its show. While described under the umbrella of ‘tango shows’, this is best described as ‘tango theatre’ as the entire evening provides the audience with snippets of tango stories through different characters and partnerships. Scene changes are fluid and impeccable and dance routines are interspersed by song and orchestral renditions. On a raised stage above the dancers, the 8-piece orchestra weaves life into the tango songs accompanying the dancers. The sound is of high quality and a greatest hits of tango repertoire and will not leave you disappointed.

The calibre of dance from this company is at a world class level. It is impressive and most importantly, each partnerships strength lies in a different element of dance, meaning you aren’t overwhelmed by endless flashy kicks and moves that the more inflexible of us in society can only dream of ever doing.  The audience is given the opportunity to appreciate speed, flexibility, grace and simplicity by different dance numbers. Guests are transported from a playful whimsical milonga (complete with a bunch of balloons) to a barrio milonga where the young fall in love despite the mother’s attempts to stop it happen; enamoured by a graceful ballet-esque tango before a lightning fast and dramatic tango leaves you breathless. Uniquely, the company includes an older couple dancing tango milonguero style - just as you will see in the milongas today. For the more traditional of the guests, this is a wonderful opportunity to see tango as it is danced everyday by those of us who live this dance.

Esquina Carlos Gardel offers so much history in both its setting and show, giving guests the opportunity to learn about tango through a video that is played prior to the show. Images and videos from Buenos Aires’ golden age are used to show tango’s history and whilst it is in Spanish, it includes English subtitles and the audio is non-intrusive.  Overall, the experience of ‘a night at the tango theatre’ that Esquina Carlos Gardel gives, is enthralling and unparalleled, well deserving of bearing the name and spirit of one of Argentina’s most famous tango artists.


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