Led by the co-founding artistic director/choreographer Miguel Angel Zotto, Buenos Aires Tango outlines the evolution of an Argentinian art form that has had enormous impact around the world ever since the tangomania of the early twentieth century.
Full of pulsating sensuality, the show acts as a celebration of the dancers, choreographers, musicians and composers who developed tango, from its humble beginnings in the slums of mid-nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, through the Golden Age of the 1930s to flirtation with jazz and classical music in the 1970s and its revival in the 1980s after the fall of the military dictatorship.
There is no overarching story as such, but there are individual scenarios which are enacted by characters in various settings. The show opens with a reference to the tangos sleazy underworld origins in the back streets of Buenos Aires, where sex and violence were never far apart. A man accepts money from a rival allowing him to dance with his girlfriend, who stabs him when his advances become too intimate. This is followed by a steamy bordello scene where prostitutes vie with each other for the attentions of rich clients.
Also featured is a re-creation of the practice rooms where men would dance with other men (they outnumbered women by about 10 to 1, so women were in short supply!) in order to attain success with female partners in the milongas (dance halls). And there is a nice tribute to the great bandeon player Eduardo Arolas, in which the performers dance with the accordion-like bandeon instrument.
Like other international touring tango shows, this production has plenty of glitz and glamour, but is short on real dramatic power. Zottos choreography is slick and sexy, and while the frequent set and costume changing offers pleasant variety, there is still something inevitably repetitive about a two-hour-plus performance based on one particular dance form, however seductive. The highly stylized approach may seem more kitsch than authentic at times, but nonetheless the overall experience is undeniably exhilarating.
The technique displayed by the six dancing couples (plus the irrepressible 50-year-old Zotto) is stunning, especially as the women do it in high heels! The singer/narrator Claudio Garces lends true Latin passion to proceedings (even if he is intelligible only to Spanish-speakers), while the five-piece band with musical director Pocho Palmer on first bandoneon is fantastic. Stage set and multimedia designer Tito Egurza, and costume designers Maria Julia Bertotto and Daniela Taiana, add much to the sultry ambience, which sometimes has a hint of danger.
Once memorably described as like being in love for ten minutes, the tango dance still burns strongly in peoples hearts. Valentines Day beckons