The various tango presentations showing up over the past two decades share a typical approach and format.
Backed by musicians, five or so couples parade before our eyes and deliver striking duets, varied by the occasional comic interlude and large ensemble work.
What saves this predictable recipe from tango-on-ice mediocrity is the consistent talents on display, year after year, tango lineup after lineup. So it proves again with "Tango Fire," a showcase of sensational Argentine dancers and musicians that played the Harris Theater over the weekend. If we're lucky, they'll return.
True, the first act is a little sleepy, more clean and clinical than charged with the sexual tingle and amazing acrobatics tango embraces. Set in a club, it follows a loose, almost imperceptible trip through time, through the 1920s and the present, revealed mainly by the costumes. There's an amusing male ensemble revolving around nightclub fisticuffs, one man twirling elegantly across the floor only to plant a combative knee into another man's backside, for instance.
But the precise, refined dancing in Act 1 hardly prepares you for the fireworks and musical heights of Act 2. Yanina Fajar, the show's director of choreography, approaches tango with a sly, ballet bent. The sleek extensions of the svelte women in the cast are a delight throughout, and, in Act 2, Fajar boosts the ballet component to graft gorgeous lifts, dangerous drops and hints of arabesques to otherwise terrific tango.
My favorite couple was Carolina Giannini and German Cornejo, a steamy partnership buoyed by her quicksilver agility. Enough can't be said for the four-member onstage orchestra, who deliver a couple of rousing musical numbers.
By Sid Smith
Special to the Chicago Tribune