theatre review

Tango Pasión
Vogue Theatre
October 12-17

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!

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2004 8:21 PM
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