Life In Berlin: Shop And Dance At The Mall Of Berlin

Aug 9, 2016

Tango music blares in middle of the Mall of Berlin. Dancers glide with their intricate steps on the wide and open square space. It's Thursday afternoon, and this upscale shopping center in Leipziger Platz has turned into a modern milonga, a gathering where tango is the star attraction.

"I’ve never danced in a mall. It's absolutely beautiful," Tanya Nagel tells me. She's visiting from Upstate New York. "One of the attractions for me coming to Berlin had to do with the tango. That there's such a large community - it's printed actually, on a map and a menu with different places to go everyday."

Tanya Nagel and Luciano Troncoso dance at a Mall of Berlin workshop.
Credit Wilma Consul

Her partner, Luciano Troncoso, moved from Argentina to Berlin just several years ago.

"Most people believe, I’m Argentinean, so I must dance tango," he tells me. "That’s a stereotype. I started dancing in Berlin."

Summertime ballroom dancing is making a mark for this location. In 1896, here stood the famous department store: the Wertheim Kaufhaus. But the Nazis took hold of this Jewish property in the 1930s. World War II destroyed it.

The Mall of Berlin opened in 2014. Manager Andreas Ziehmann says this structure is a historical blueprint of the Wertheim.

"Thinking back to the good old times, we came up with the idea there was more than shopping," Ziehmann explains, "and there's even dancing. Very lively like in Roma or Madrid."

Fernando Zapata, Colombian and owner of dance studio Zapatissimo, coordinates the event. 

"Mondays, discofox. Tuesdays, they dance swing..."

It's best to check out the Mall of Berlin website for the schedule and dance style offerings.

Most of the brave souls that strut their back kicks and turns on this dancefloor have experience with tango.

Reinhardt Bieber, right, says he has been studying tango for over thirty years.
Credit Wilma Consul

"I learned tango for...25 years, the first time," Reinhardt Bieber tells me. "Then, I was ten years in Buenos Aires to study tango. My name is Reinhardt. My family name is Bieber. No, no, not Bieber. Bee-buhr," he adds, laughing.

The veteran Mr. Bieber doesn't mind dancing with a beginner. But spectators focus on a couple so in sync, they mesmerize.

"Tango dancing is not just dancing together with just one person," Dubravko Kakarigi explains to me. "We dance with anybody. So it's not exclusive by any means." Kakarigi is a tango blogger who taught the dance in Florida before he moved to Berlin.

"This is my wife Elka."

The bright and airy make-shift ballroom inspires her.

"I love it," she tells me. "The wind’s blowing through, people shopping. You can hear the little tea cups going."

Dancing at the mall lasts till the end of August. So, go shop, and you might just get an invitation.