I’m not a dancer. Even in my wildest dreams, I don’t rhythmically glide across a polished floor with my partner. That’s not to say I’m a two left-footer. I’m simply too self-conscious to be on stage, which is strange because I’m far from shy. I’d rather be behind the scenes in a supporting role or lifting others up onto my shoulders. It’s true. I’m more comfortable being in the shadows. But, I very much enjoy watching other gracefully display their passion for applause.
During each time in Buenos Aires, I always found myself sitting amongst a throng of tourists watching a Tango show. A Tango show is the “thing to do” in Buenos Aires if you didn’t know. I’m rarely one to do what typical tourists do as I’m often off the proverbial beaten path. And to be honest, the show seemed like a tourist trap in my mind. After a bit of self-resistance, there I was doing the thing I swore I wouldn’t do. The first time I went it was my birthday I remember. I sat at a long table with people I’d never seen before, and would never see again, with a plated pick a number dinner. I sat sulking a bit and thinking what a self-inflicted mistake to be amongst the crowd who were anxiously awaiting the curtain rise.
The lights dimmed, the music rambled through the air and the dancers articulated their choreographed steps across the stage. Seeing and hearing this display immediately changed my disposition. I was mesmerized and didn’t take my eyes off the dancers until the curtain descended after the final number.
The movement of the dancers is sensual and captivating, yet I must say the show is indeed too touristic for my taste. The show is made for tourists. I left the show and thought there must be more, there must be a way to get behind the scenes. I wanted to know the dancers and I wanted to go backstage at the tango. Creative people inspire me no matter where their creativity derives. I always want to know what motivates creatives and the process they go through before their final creation is viewed. I wanted to photograph the dancers.
One night I returned to the tango show; I took a deep breath, turned up the charm and simply asked the maître d at the reception. “I’m an American travel photographer. May I go backstage to photograph the dancers?” He never replied though mumbled something in Spanish to his co-worker and nodded his head toward me. I stood, waited and wondered, “what to do now?” I waited longer.
Forty minutes later a man named Luis arrived with a big smile. He took hold of my arm and ushered me backstage and into the dressing room. Since no one spoke agreed to or denied my request, nor explained what was happening, I blindly followed. I was wide-eyed but felt a warm rush of adrenaline because I knew an unbelievable adventure awaited. Luis introduced me to the dancers then motioned for me to take photos. I had free reign before, during and after the performance – no boundaries and no rules. Just shoot.
Going backstage and seeing the professionalism, the faces behind the stage personas and the pure dedication the dancers put into every performance was well worth asking a simple question. I couldn’t believe getting backstage would be so easy and I realised the worse anyone could say is no. Keep this in mind the next time you want to do the unthinkable. The images I captured are included in the video included in this post. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch.
Six months later I visited Buenos Aires again and made a special trip to the tango theatre, Cafe de Los Angelitos, with the Tango dancer photographs in hand. As I neared the cafe a familiar face popped in front of me and it was Luis, the stage manager who introduced me to the dancers. It was as if I had been away and returned to see my family. The welcome was so friendly and warm with hugs all around. The dance company made me feel as if I belonged and this was the best part. Showing the dancers their photos and seeing their genuine delight was like icing on a cake.
Travel should lead to experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime. You don’t need to be as bold as I tend to be. Take baby steps if needed. And remember, what is the worse anyone can say?
A video and behind the scenes view of tango dancers at one of the largest tango shows in Buenos Aires, Cafe de Los Angelitos. Join me as I am given full access backstage of this remarkable and romantic dance. See tango dancers and their intimate moments before they take the stage.
Travel Destination: Buenos Aires Argentina