Show opens in San Francisco:
TANGO, a procative proposition
A refreshing new show bids for own identy
Very quietly and unassumingly, an Argentine Tango Show has opened in the San Francisco Bay Area. The venue is an old religius temple hastily converted to a theatre house and named the Alcazar, a Spanish name aptly describes the architecturural exterior of the buildings.
Created and directed by Rafael Nicolau, TANGO is a refreshing departure from the cookie cutter Tango shows have followed the structure and format set by Andres Segovia and Hector Orezzolli with their hit show TANGO ARGENTINO.
That choice and the gutsy effort to feature the art of the music and stage dancing of contemporaneous Buenos Aires, have earned the Steve Dobbins productions some initial unfavorable reviews from critics who expect Argentine Tango dance shows to be unidimensional and a rehash of the old clichés of sensuality, eroticism and wheezing accordion like instruments.
First and foremost, the show is very good, entertaining, provocative and promising.
Second, it needs more polishing, a little breathing like a good cabernet, and the encouragement of those who value creativity, originality and who take pride in admiring and enjoying art devoid of elitist pretensions.
TANGO is about Argentina and the dichotomy of proud folks who seek foreign reassurance to identify themselves. That's why only in Buenos Aires one finds Our Tango and Tango for export, as if Our Tango wasn't good enough for universal consumption. That is why, perhaps, people come back from Buenos Aires salivating at the thought of an Argentine steak, but Argentina freezes and packages the steaks it exports.
The legendary eleven piece orchestras of the Forties have met with unkind extinction in part courtesy of one Astor Piazzolla, who loathed dancers and Tango dancing and contributed with his Nuevo Tango to keep people away from the dance halls.
Those who stayed or came back have sentimentally frozen their musical choices to the great orchestras of the Golden Era, technically reconstructed on compact disc.
Very aptly, Rafael Nicolau assembled a quintet akin to the small groups that have survived the decimation of Tango musicians during the last twenty five years. At the bandoneon there is Rodolfo “Cholo” Montironi, a highly regarded master of the instrument who crafts its sound in the unmistakable echos of the concrete of the city of Buenos Aires. The sound of reeds gave the Tango of the beginning a distinctive festive mood, while the sensual phrasing of Roberto Ruben Caballos soprano sax and tenor clarinet reflects the plight of the urban inhabitants of the city mirrored in its moods and traits, by the music of the new Tango.
Javier Fernando Martinez plays the piano, Jose Emiliano Gomez the electric bass and Nicolau himself pulses the strings of the guitar.
Six couples from Argentina combine the youth talent of a new cadre of performance with the experience and age of veteran stage mime and dancer Mariano Monzon andseasoned actress, dancer and show choreographer Ofelia Caviello, Delmar, an American and Ines Hapril, an Ukrainian, both classical ballet dancers who perform abstract choreography interspersed with the show's attempt to tell a story complete the cast of dancers.
Guillermo Merlo a seasoned performed and Fernanda Ghi, an exquisite dancer with the sensual appeal of black velvet, deliver enrapturing interludes in Margarita de agosto and Bandoneon arrabalero, topped by a spectacular ending with Fernanda laying on Guillermo's lap as a human bandoneon.
Sergio Cortazo and Gachi Fernández have poise, stage presence and a clear and pleasant delivery loaded with sensuality, elegance and charisma. Their bodies moving to Cholo Montiroli´s arrangement of Mala Junta are poetry in motion.
Claudio and Valentina match skill and talent in an agile and modern version of Libertango where they seem to be in a world by themselves with the audience as a willing accomplice.
Juan Manuel Fernández and Edit Páez combine the tall profile of a dancer with roots in folklore with the uncanny of the petite Argentine brunette. It is not coincidence that their choice of music for dancing is Orgullo Criollo, a proud display of skill and authenticity.
Nelson and Yanina are the youngest and it shows in their playful and creative interpretation of a century old dance form. They do Quejas de Bandoneón in a very crisp and musical way.
Mariano Monzon mimes the life and death of Astor Piazzolla while the quintet interprets Piazzolla´s Adios Nonino. Ines represents the embrace of death as she surrounds Monzon and takes him away.
Ofelia Caviello deserves a special mention for the group's choreography and the excellent portrayal, with Mariano, of the elder generation of milongueros looking at themselves when they were young. To the sounds of Pugliese´s recuerdo, Mariano and Ofelia dance on the right of the stage under yellowish spot lights, evoking their youth, reincarnated in the blue and red lights that flood Nelson and Yanina dancing on the opposite side of the stage.
Ken Dalmar plays a credible Rudolph Valentino with Yanina, and Ines as La rubia Mireya, a legendary blonde of the Tango lore, is ever so sensual, and beautiful. Maria del Carmen Spindola´s customes are original, tasteful, suggestive and visually rich colorful.
A second act that converts to a Tango review from the book story telling of the first part, brings a questionable image of Evita, the play with Graciela Arselli giving a heartfelt rendition of Don't cry for my Argentina. She is also genuine and bien Argentina when she duos with Gabriel Dominguez in Sonar y nada mas. Gabriel is a refreshing surprise that reminds us that young and talent vocalists don't have to resort to Gardel and Lepera hits for export.
By Alberto Paz.