Tango in New York

Friday, December 21, 2007

Argentine Dance group "Estampas Porteñas bring their energy, passion, and tango to the Big Apple.

The tangueros of "Tango Fire" create use their dance to create aesthetic art.
Some say tango is music, others that it’s just dance. For Carolina Soler, it’s much more: the melding of two souls, a fusion of passion, sensuality, eroticism and sorrow.

Soler has brought all these interpretations together in “Tango Fire,” the latest production of her 11-year-old dance company, Estampas Porteñas, now playing at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea.

She has transformed the stereotypes of traditional tango into a dance worthy of its own genre. The show, which opened Wednesday and runs through Jan. 6, doesn’t feature head snaps, dramatic long steps, or even a rose.

“Everything goes through an evolution,” Soler says in Spanish. “The aesthetic of tango has changed from a dance solely on the ground, to one where all parts of dance space is used, including the air.”

The show features five couples, some of whom have been dancing together for over a decade. Their ease with each other was evident as they moved in unison through a rapid series of spins.

“Couples naturally develop a unique style that comes from really knowing their partner’s bodies,” Soler says.
Nelson Celis, 29, and Yanina Fajar, 27, who have been performing together since 1997, say Soler has helped them develop their skills while opening them up to a more contemporary form of tango.

“Carolina’s direction has expanded our technique but she still respects our personalities and styles,” Celis says.

Adds Fajar, “She is always pushing us with many hours of rehearsal. This can tire at times but the reaction of the audience during a show always makes it worth it.”
“Tango Fire” mixes the traditional “ganchos” — a move in which dancer hooks a leg sharply around or inside their partner’s leg — with dramatic flips, twists, drags and lifts.

The couples cross the length of the stage while twirling their legs inside and out of their partners’ in a single fluid motion. Some sets feature complex techniques that create dramatic visual illusions.

But the contemporary choreography may be too much for tango traditionalists. Old tangueros achieved fluidity through slower, more sensual movements. The dancers of Estampas Porteñas can seem, at times, over-choreographed. Even eye contact, a must in true tango, seems rehearsed.

The couples dance to live music from Quatrotango, a youthful four-man bandfrom Buenos Aires led by the shaggy-haired Gabriel Clenar, who directed the troupe from behind piano for the two-hour show.

Quatrotango is as much a part of the show as the dancers, particularly during a series of instrumental pieces. It also played solo between dances. “Their energy helps feed the positive energy that comes out of the stage,” Soler says.

Despite the contemporary feel of the show, the old tangueros did make an appearance.

“Firulete,” a song made famous by Uruguayan Julio Sosa, comes alive with five male dancers who stage a fight scene without missing a tango step. The late singer Edmundo Rivero is remembered with an interpretation of his classic “Boedo” while a single couple performed on stage. Javier Di Ciriaco, a celebrated tango singer in Argentina, pays homage to the legendary Carlos Gardel with “Mi Buenos Aires Querido.”

“Tango Fire” is more than a “tango for two.” It’s for any tango-loving New Yorker wanting to experience the sound and spirit of a modern-day Argentinean milonga.



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