Reviewed – 29th January 2019
“The music is more than a backdrop here; it is the living sensual pulse which beats in the dancers’ blood”
Tango originated in the impoverished port areas of the Argentina/Uruguay border in the 1880s; a unique and fiery blend of European ballroom traditions and dances from Africa, Cuba and Argentina itself, it is now danced throughout the world, with its performance epicentre being the great tango houses of Buenos Aires. German Cornejo – creator of the company and choreographer of the show – is native to Buenos Aires, and has been steeped in tango tradition since he began his dance studies at the age of 10. Tango Fire aims to showcase the different styles of tango, and also gives the six couples the opportunity to perform their own individual routines created for the show.
The dancers perform in front of a live tango quartet of piano, bandoneon, violin and contrabass, and there is no doubt that these four terrific young musicians are absolutely essential to this spectacle. The music is more than a backdrop here; it is the living sensual pulse which beats in the dancers’ blood, and in the audience’s too. And no recorded backing track could ever replicate the staccato of Clemente Carrascal’s fingers on the bandoneon’s buttons, or Facundo Benavidez’s rhythmic slapping of the sides of the contrabass. Although the stage does seem empty in the interludes in which the musicians play without the dancers, their moments in the sun are richly deserved.
The dancing itself is extraordinary; skilful, precise and gymnastic, and often performed at breathtaking speed. The second half, in which the couples present their own routines, sees almost unbelievable feats of technical mastery, bringing roars from the crowd and a partial standing ovation for German Cornejo himself and his long-term dance partner Gisela Galeassi. The atmosphere is akin to being rink-side at an ice-skating championships – the competition between the couples is palpable – and the show suffers from a lack of warmth as a result. Moments of emotional connection and passion between the couples are few, lost as they are in technical display, and the pure joy of dancing this extraordinary form only rarely flows out from the stage. These moments, when they do come, are pure gold. Camila Alegre seems in a higher realm of emotional being in Watashi, her duet with Ezequiel Lopez, and it feels a privilege to witness it. Similarly, the fun of the men dancing together, and the women playfully passing the fan between themselves, towards the beginning of the show, is infectious. Marcos Esteban Roberts and Louise Junqueira Malucelli also shine, oozing class and tradition, in the tango clasico Gallo Ciego.
Taken as a whole however, Tango Fire remains a whisker away from raising the roof, for whilst the costumes sparkle and the dancers impress, no souls are stirred.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Oliver Neubert
Peacock Theatre until 16th February
Previously reviewed at this venue: