Tango Fire @ Peacock Theatre, London

Tango. The mere mention of the word immediately conjures a batch of adjectives, many beginning with ‘s’: sensual, seductive, sexy. It’s one of the most evocative, emotive forms of dance there is and is being showcased at the Peacock Theatre by Argentine company Estampas Porteas in their over-excitedly named show Tango Fire.

This rapid journey through the various forms the dance can take, from its dance hall roots to some stunning displays of contemporary choreography, was, at times, exhilarating. The show was packed with limb-twisting set-pieces, costume changes and bursts of song. But for all its sense of spectacle, there was something lacking in this colourful show, some crucial spark missing from its centre. The choreography was just too sharp, and in moments, too convoluted, to convey that rich, passionate, almost illicitly erotic charge that tango can produce.

Technically the performances were amazing, the skill of the dancers incredible. They moved with phenomenal speed, legs whipping around one another, bodies sliding, dipping and spinning. It was quite dazzling, especially the later dance sequences, which were peppered with an array of dramatic lifts and throws, the female dancers being tossed hither and thither by their partners before being caught in mid-air.

The duets had an intensity lacking in the group numbers. But this was a visual thing, related to the number of highly complex moves the director Carolina Soler packed into them, not an emotional response. Everything was ratcheted up to such a frantic pace, everything was so heightened, that it became rather wearing and the musical interludes from toothsome vocalist Javier di Ciriaco and the show’s onstage band Quatrotango became very welcome. In fact the band gave the show something of the power and passion I felt was lacking in the dance numbers, they cemented things together and gave the show a human warmth that was missing in the overly slick choreography.

I’m being a tad negative here. There is much to impress in this show, much that delights the eye. (And a little that was unintentionally amusing, especially in the costume department. Seriously, some shades of satin are unflattering on even a dancer’s toned frame and the one legged purple velour creation that one dancer was forced to wear was quite astonishingly vile). But while I was certainly never bored, I was also never hooked, never riveted; I could certainly appreciate the level of skill on display, but it was just all too polished, too glossy, too much.

If you’re at all interested in contemporary tango choreography then this is a show worth seeing, but it didn’t provide the necessary emotional thread to get me any more excited than that. The band went some way to rounding things out, but, in the end, it wasn’t quite enough to rectify the imbalance.

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