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Tango Por Dos - 'La Historia'

by Stuart Sweeney

June 16, 2006 -- Peacock Theatre, London

For glamour, sensuous movement and fast footwork, Argentine tango is tough to beat. For the past 17 years, Tango Por Dos have been the main purveyors to London audiences. The latest visit celebrates the history of the company founded by the current Director, Miguel Angel Zotto, and Milena Plebs. I remember seeing the pair dance together demonstrating some of the finest tango I have seen. And then, one month before a visit, with the posters of the duo plastered across The Peacock, Milena Plebs left the company. While she is mentioned in one short section of the show and we see a poorly projected fragment of the founders dancing, her name appears only once in the programme – a tiny star which is later indicated as a choreography credit. Bad show Mr Zotto.

In this retrospective, there is certainly much to enjoy, but it doesn’t make quite the impact of earlier shows. We see many more dances than usual and some flash before they have had a chance to make an impression. Along with the ever-changing elaborate scenes, from time to time a new set necessitates a black scrim coming down with a couple dancing in front. These dances last longer and allow development from slower steps to a climax of rapid kicks and swivels. I hope the producers noticed that these dances gained the biggest applause – tango is good enough not to need over-embellishment.

Another negative factor occurs later in the show with the women abandoning traditional garb for short jackets and bare legs with high-cut outfits revealing nearly all. These costumes really spoil the line of the dancers and detract from the sculptural quality of tango that is so beguiling. More than one review mentioned a Las Vegas style of presentation and I hope this trend doesn’t continue.

Miguel Zotto danced with Romina Levin for much of the evening, and with her flame coloured hair and incisive footwork she makes a strong impression. However, re-reading some of my earlier reviews, apart from Marina Plebs, I vividly remember Erica Boaglio: "...a Simone Simon look-alike. She made it all look so easy with amazing speed and neatness and then, as her partner lifted her gently in the air, would slowly lift her leg backward at the knee with a grace and sensuality to make you swoon." None of the women were quite in that league and it would be interesting to see some older couples; one of the best partnerships I ever saw, from Tango Argentina, were in their 50’s.

From the men, Lautero Cancela has film-star looks, elegance in the slow sections and lightning fast flicks. In general I found the men’s dancing more satisfying, although we have to remember that they are not wearing high heels. Zotto remains an outstanding dancer and in a show-off piece at the very front edge of the stage his feet often trading air, his rapid steps require complete precision to avoid falling into the front row.

The orchestra under Andres Linetzky played with great verve, but the musicians and the singers were hampered in the first half by over-amplification; two of us mentioned this to the front of house team and the second half was an improvement.

Overall, “La Historia” made an enjoyable evening, but I hope that future shows follow a “less is more” philosophy.

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