Okay, so this is not technically “theatre”. It’s
not even really dance theatre. It’s just an Argentine company
of 13 dancers, a couple of singers and seven old guys in a funny
little orchestra. And it’s without a doubt the hottest show
on any Vancouver stage this week.
Tango Pasión makes only the slightest attempt at setting
up a dramatic frame. In the first act we seem to be in a retro
night club (the Buenos Aires Social Club?), maybe in the 1930s,
with six male dancers dressed in early Godfather and six women
right out of Moulin Rouge. The costumes and the women are equally
gorgeous. The second act goes contemporary, the men in tuxes, later
stripped down to tight shirts and pants, the women in elegant black
gowns. There’s a cigarette girl, a drunk, a magnificent number
where the men use pool cues like lances, and a few others where
sexual competition breaks out. But there’s no suggestion
of a narrative. And who cares. It’s all about the music,
the bodies and the dance.
All my superficial, clichéd notions of tango went out the
window after about 20 minutes. There was little of the slinky,
vampy, sultry tango we’ve come to know from Hollywood movies.
The music is dramatic but mostly up-tempo and the choreography
is distinguished by fast footwork and muscular elegance, speed
and precision, and of course coordination, since nearly all the
dancing is in couples. The most distinctive moves are quick kicks
between each other’s legs and behind each other’s knees.
And there’s real gender equality in the dance. Though the
men do some lifting and the women get lifted, there is little sense
that men lead and women follow. This is a dance of powerful, independent
women and macho men. If tango is a metaphor for sex, it sure ain’t
the missionary position.
Most of the time it seems more foreplay than sex—a very
physical, competitive kind of foreplay. That is, until an utterly
thrilling sequence near the end when the absolute alpha-male dancer
appears, dances down a male rival, then does a number with three
women that may be the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen on a stage.
Two fine singers provide some variety (and costume change opportunities
for the dancers), their cabaret-style Spanish ballads sometimes
verging on the melodramatic but still very affecting, even if you
don’t know the language. And the three or four occasions
when the Sextet Mayor orchestra has the stage to itself are among
the highlights of the evening. These guys (average age 60+) make
remarkable music with piano, bass and drums, two violins, and two
funny little squeezebox concertinas as their lead instruments.
The audience adored them.
This is altogether a fabulous evening of theatre, world music
and dance. So it’s not a play. Hey, it’s my web site
and I can review whatever I want!