Passion of Argentinean Tango is billed as “a celebration of the love and passion of the Tango in eternal Buenos Aires” and features a combination of classic and modern tango – performed by nineteen dancers – with traditional Gaucho dancing, accompanied by a singer and live orchestra.
The show begins with a video of Buenos Aires and a brief history of the Argentinean tango. I felt that this clip was too long and the poor audio-visual quality irritated me somewhat, and I longed to get on with what I drove all the way from Johannesburg to Pretoria for, the Tango-A-Tierra.
Once the video screen was lifted to reveal a five piece band, piano, a type of accordion which the video named as “bandoneone”, bass, violin and percussion the mood shifted from documentary to entertainment and the audience palpably relaxed. The music itself is seductive, onomatopoeic in its rhythm and vibrant: music to make love to.
Five couples and three male “gaucho” dancers made up the dancing complement of the nineteen strong cast. The last member of the cast is a singer who presented several numbers in a variety of styles. Sadly there was no programme available and the names of the individuals other than the musical director, Ruben Jurado, which appeared on the advertising flyer were not revealed.
Individual couples and ensemble work was interspersed with orchestral and vocal numbers and some “gaucho” dancing.
“Gauchos” are South American cowboys, and their dancing is all male folk dancing. Rooted in Spanish Flamenco, the foot movements were strongly percussive, evoking similar patterns to those of Irish, tap and gumboot dancers, except very stylised and adapted to the storyline of the show. This was one of the most exciting aspects of the show and I would like to have seen both more of it and a greater variety of this unique style of dancing.
At one point in the first half there was a number with two male dancers and a female one, performed to recorded music. The audio quality of the recording was poor and I could determine absolutely no reason for the canned music while there was a perfectly good band present. I think the purpose may have been to convey a historical feel to the number in days when men outnumbered women significantly, but it didn’t work.
Throughout the show there were only two costume changes (three costumes in all) with the first being very restrained in style, almost working or rehearsal dress, while the other two sets of costumes showed off the perfection of each woman’s figure, and they all, without exception, had the build of the ballet dancers they obviously were before converting to this style. In other words, they had very good figures and stunning legs.
The dancing was passionate, elegant and graceful and the speed and precision of the footwork was phenomenal.
Overall the impression was that this show is not yet completely worked into a showbiz extravaganza. It retains some of its salon grit. I found that gutsy and attractive, but it may also irritate people who prefer absolute symmetrical tutti ensemble work.
The sets were borrowed from The State Theatre. They looked like left-overs from Phantom of the Opera, and the impression they conveyed was, appropriately, the sleazy night club from which the tango sprang. The lighting and smoke effects were also effective in this context.
Passion of Argentinean Tango runs at The State Theatre in Pretoria from 21 March to 1 April. The prices are very reasonable for an imported show of this quality at R130 to R220.