There is no way you can get in and out of Buenos Aires without bumping into Carlos Gardel. Not in the flesh of course because he died in 1935 but through a song you hear on the radio, the humming of the man next to you in the colectivo, on a mural in a park somewhere or any other way people could think up to commemorate him.

‘Carlito’ is the king of tango and always will be according to everyone who has but a slight opinion about the subject; ‘his baritone voice embodies the true essence of tango and can never be surpassed’.

Somebody at the AMAUTA Spanish School in Buenos Aires said something about a school trip involving Tango and therefore I registered to come along. Before coming to Buenos Aires I didn’t know much about him or tango in general so I had become very curious.

Carlos Gardel and the vibe of tango in Buenos Aires

I have a vivid imagination. Thinking about our free school excursion organized by AMAUTA I imagined we would be going to an obscure, underground but must-see venue; the lights would be dimmed, through the smoke we’d see sheer black and shades of red and couples would embrace each other passionately while dancing this enigmatic sensual dance. And then –but off course- there would be this man. He would recognise me from a distance. Slowly but surely he would make his way across the room to invite me. His stretched out hand asking me to dance. And in my dreams I, naturally, would be able to dance this sensual dance as if I had done nothing else in my life but dance, dance, dance.

Things don’t always go the way I imagine. I’m over 30, I know that now and it’s ok. I am happy to be experiencing things in my mind and in real life and it doesn’t all have to be the same. I went out off my way to buy me some pretty tango shoes just to be sure but I wasn’t that disappointed when I discovered we would be going to an ‘Original Tango Show’ to basically sit and eat while watching and listening instead of dancing.

Carlos Gardel and the vibe of tango in Buenos Aires

We went to 36 billares*, a beautiful bar slash restaurant slash pool hall in the centre of the city. The camareros wore white, the tables were set and the band started as soon as we arrived; three elderly men playing piano, a bandoneon (a small accordion) and guitar. The room lights were dimmed, a spotlight turned on and a young but troubled-faced man came upon the stage. He said nothing. In anticipation we waited and so did he. The music spoke to him or so it seemed because all of a sudden he answered in a painful whisper. A tango singer had taken the stage.

The young man stood in the spotlight and sang, his shiny suit glistening, when another spotlight swerved. Across the room stood a lovely couple; his jacket was tight, he’s hair cleanly cut and she wore a dress as long as her legs with a split up to her hips; a real sight for sore eyes. They made their way to the stage, gracefully and swift and danced and danced and danced like I did in my dream.

I don’t know if I am any further in getting to know Carlos Gardel but my night out was more than lovely. I didn’t get to dance either but because I got Tango lessons for my birthday from my classmates at the AMAUTA Spanish school in Buenos Aires, I am now more than inspired to show off my new shoes and go dance, dance, dance, maybe…

Carlos Gardel and the vibe of tango in Buenos Aires

AMAUTA also offers a specific Spanish and Tango course and organizes tango workshops part of a different cultural activity for the students every day, so it’s not only about the study Spanish in Buenos Aires. More info here!

*The Lonely Planet says about ’36 Billares’: ‘It’s the #459 of 638 things to do in Buenos Aires; shoot pool with some elderly gents – or just catch a performance by a sultry singer in the main cafe – at this antique bar where the Argentine Billiards Association was born in 1926. The nightly tango show verges on the burlesque.’