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Miguel Angel Zotto's 'Buenos Aires Tango'

by Ana Abad-Carles

January 29, 2008 -- Peacock Theatre, London

The Peacock Theatre has seen two different Tango Shows in a short time. A few months ago, “Estampas Porteñas” brought passion,fiery dance and outstanding music to the stage. On this occasion, “Buenos Aires Tango” danced by Miguel Angel Zotto’s group of exceptional tango dancers and musicians delighted the audience on their first night.

It is difficult to explain the difference between the two shows. Whereas “Estampas Porteñas” relished  the acrobatics and “showing off” aspects of the dance, “Buenos Aires Tango” was a more intimate affair. All dancers had impeccable footwork and beautiful rapport, and passion was  abundant. However, the overall effect was of a more subdued, more elegant and warmer show. This performance presented the kind of Tango identified  with Argentina and, just to remind us all that this was indeed the cradle of the dance form, projections of the Obelisco in Buenos Aires acted as an appropriate background to most of the performance.

The performance was a compilation of fragments from previous shows. Not having seen the company before, I was lucky enough to witness everything for the first time. There was a hint of telling the history of tango. Indeed, the first number was a gaucho dance, reminiscent of flamenco zapateado that  clearly established the connection between Argentinean Folklore and its Spanish roots. Soon the tango emerged, first as a male dominated dance, then slowly shifting territory to the brothels, where prostitutes acted as improvised partners in the dance. Then Tango  travelled in time and space from those humble and dubious origins into the salons of the upper classes in Argentina and every Western country in the world.

However, Tango never lost the passion and sadness that gave it birth in the first place. The music somehow shapes the content of the dance and is nostalgic most of the time.

The first act of the programme finished with a fragment of “Homenaje personajes de Horacio Ferrer y Astor Piazzola”. Needless to say, praise must go to the musicians who performed Piazzola’s music beautifully and the dancers who showcased great elegance, fabulous footwork and passion galore, as they did throughout the show. The second part of the programme was  shorter, and this made it flow seamlessly.

Strangely, it would be difficult to find a number to criticise. Zotto’s choreography is never dull. He knows his stagecraft and also how long a dance can sustain the audience’s interest. More importantly, he knows how to make choreographic evolutions that demand the careful attention of the viewer, and his use of ensemble work is complex at times. So, repeated viewings may enhance appreciation of the dance numbers.

His dancers understand what Zotto is trying to achieve, and the result is a highly unified show, in spite of the fact that it is made up of fragments. It would be difficult to note some dancers over the rest, but certainly Analía Morales and Gabriel Ponce danced beautifully, passionately and with flawless technique.

As the show gathered speed and momentum and the dancers showcased that difficult mixture of elegance and passion, it was interesting to think how Argentina’s national dance form stands miles apart from the rest of Latin America’s. Tango is a strange mixture of an old European Ballroom tradition imbued with the passion that only South America could give to any formal social dance.

Zotto's show was tango at its best, highly recommendable for the sole pleasure of seeing and hearing such beautiful dancers and musicians

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