Buenos Aires performers team for intensely sensual program of dance, music and song
If you notice the sidewalk outside the Joyce Theater in New York City's trendy Chelsea neighborhood is constantly free of ice and snow, chalk it up to the steamy "Tango Fire" on stage inside.
Youthful in age, the troupe is just 11 years old, and playful in spirit, the dance company Estampas Portenas from Buenos Aires has returned to New York City for a three-week engagement at the Joyce.
"Tango Fire" features 12 dancers, Quatrotango, a quartet of musicians, and the romantic singing star Javier di Ciriaco, and it is, in a word -- hot.
If I stress the youthful, playful nature of the company it's because there are tango purists who find anything other than a classic execution of the hot-blooded dance to be treason.
I, however, agree with the company's founder and artistic director, Argentine ballerina/choreographer Carolina Soler, that while the heart of the tango is controlled passion it is better demonstrated with visible intensity than with mere precision and it doesn't hurt if the dancers are beautiful to look at.
The tango was born in the barrios, or slums of Buenos Aires, was elevated to popular favor in the dance halls, then was appropriated by the upper classes and even by Hollywood in the 1920s. Its popularity is on the rise again and there are many clubs where one can go -- alone if necessary -- to sample this latent sexual expression.
The stage is set with cabaret tables and chairs and the huge sign on the wall proclaiming "Café de Tango" says
it all. The musicians are at the center rear.
The ladies, who get to each wear more than a half dozen different, but equally provocative costumes, enter like Anita and her girl friends at the dance in the gym in "West Side Story." There's a little shoving as the male dancers are fought over and the ladies are not above a little show off, sexual strutting. This is just to give the evening the hint of a story frame in which the dances, songs and instrumental numbers can be easily incorporated. Luckily it's not overdone.
Though most people think of the tango as a single kind of dance there are many variations and choreographer and Soler demonstrates five in this show. The milonga, famous for its fast steps, is highlighted, as are contemporary interpretations which include ballet-like lifts and leaps. There are twists, turns and scissor kicks with the legs that cut the air like machetes. With incredible speed and surety the dancers move across the floor executing complicated foot work that is as difficult as it is dazzling.
The dancers are all so physically attractive and talented it would be a shame to have to single them out for special praise. The partners are Nelson Celis/Yanina Fajar, Pablo Sosa/ Mariela Maldonado, Cristian Mino/Jorgelina Guzzi, Andres Sautel/ Celeste Medina and Christian Gallardo and Betiana Botana.
The temperature really rises when Cristian Mino and Jorgelina Guzzi take the floor and for subtle, sublime sensuality keep your eyes on the duo of Cristian Gallardo and Betiana Botana.
There are 15 numbers in the first act capped by La Cumparsita, one of the best known tango melodies.
In the second act, which includes 10 tango numbers, Quatrotango gets to share the spotlight with four instrumental numbers .Violinist Marcelo Rebuffi and Gabriel Clenar at the piano provide some amusing musical duels, while Hugo Satorre on the bandoneon -- an Argentine version of the accordion -- delivers the haunting sound many associate with the tango .
The singer, Javier di Ciraco, has a strong light baritone and for the ladies seated down front in the orchestra he exudes the kind of come-hither appeal Tom Jones used to great advantage.
"Tango Fire" lives up to its title and for those who enjoy a little vicarious excitement along with the pleasure of watching superb dancers it's the show to catch over the holidays.
By Chesley Plemmons THEATER CRITIC
The News Times