Medellin is tango’s second city, as it was here that Carlos Gardel, the famous tango singer/composer, died in a plane crash.
Every June, the paisas throw a tango festival, which offered me my first exposure to the music and dance.
For those who want to enjoy tango any week of the year, you need only go to Patio del Tango on a Friday or Saturday night.
One of Medellin’s best-known tango bars, I made it a point to visit this past Saturday night after seeing Patio del Tango featured in La Virgen de los Sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins).
The first thing you notice about the venue is that it truly has a patio feel to it. A metal fence separates the interior from the sidewalk, and it’s slightly lower than street level.
From the images in La Virgen de los Sicarios, which was shot in 1999/2000, it’s easy to see they’ve spruced up the interior decor. One thing that remains the same over the last 13 years is the painting which forms the backdrop of the stage.
It depicts several male tango dancers on the street in Buenos Aires, with a pretty woman in a racy red dress leaning against a lamp-post.
I’d tried to make a reservation online earlier that day, but called to confirm a few hours later, which was a good idea since the person who answered hadn’t received my information.
I confirmed a table for two at 8 PM. When we arrived, we were seated directly in front of the stage. I couldn’t have asked for a better view of the night’s performances.
The dinner menu features typical fare, including steaks and chicken for about 26,000 pesos per plate ($14), as well as a dessert selection which includes ice cream, flan, and a few others made on the premise, as well as tiramisu and a few options that come pre-packaged.
Dinner for two, including a beer, two rum ‘n Cokes, and tip ran me 102,000 pesos ($56).
If you’re not interested in food, there’s a 30,000 ($16) minimum for drinks. These costs cover the entertainment, as there’s no cover charge.
A little after 9 PM, the first singer (seen above at the keyboards) came out and sang a few songs solo, including Gardel’s most famous tune, Por Una Cabeza.
He was then joined by another singer/guitarist who belted out a few more tango songs.
Next up was an all-female quartet, La Bailonga Tango, who played several instrumentals, and would also play the music for the tango dancers who performed periodically throughout the night.
The headlining singer this past weekend was Luis Montoya, a Colombian who lived in the USA for 16 years singing opera.
He’s since returned to Medellin where he makes his living singing tango, though he told me he misses opera and his friends back in the States.
He has a wonderful voice, and an engaging stage presence. He sang several songs I enjoyed.
But it was the dancing that really drew me to Patio del Tango, and I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t get their names, but these dancers were absolutely amazing.
I took just enough tango lessons in Buenos Aires to recognize how difficult a dance it is to learn, let alone master.
I was especially impressed by the guy’s ability to lead the woman in complicated moves, given the small performance space. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve danced at Patio del Tango many times before.
We left around 10:30 PM, after having seen them do three dances, and having heard quite a bit of music by that point.
The crowd at Patio del Tango is noticeably older. You’re more likely to see middle-aged couples and grandparents here, versus the teens and 20-something’s who prefer the discotecas.
Still, as Fernando says in the movie, you might not realize old spots like this still exist in Medellin.
Do you have a favorite tango bar in Medellin?
Share your recommendations below and I’ll make it a point to visit them too.