Cutler Majestic Theatre
Director: Luis Bravo
Orchestra director, Victor Lavallén., Costumes, Argemira Affonso., Lights, Luis Bravo., Sound, Rolando Obregón., Choreography, the dancers.
October 29-November 2, 2013
Tango is the brooding crown prince of dance. Any doubts about that would have been erased after watching Louis Bravo’s “Forever Tango” at the Cutler Majestic Theater last week. Dark, sultry, sensual, primal, this dance has an urgency that puts it in its own universe.
The Cutler Majestic Theater, a lovely jewel box of plush ruby red curtains and seats and ornate gold architecture is a perfect fit for Forever Tango. When the house lights darken, the only illumination is spotlights on the dancers and small orchestra on the stage - we are disconnected from our own reality, plunged into another world.
The men are built like stevedores and can glide like sylphs. The women in sequins and dark eye shadow have the body control of ballerinas who’ve been trained in a brothel. The men in black are suave, imperial, coolly detached and controlling…but unwitting puppets to their woman’s finesse and guile. These are dances of fiercely competing emotions, bold resistance, heated attractions, mute dialogues embedded in the Tango, born in the swirling caldron of cultures that bubbled up in the Buenos Aires of the late 1800s.
Each of the dance duets feel like artistic foreplay, each ends with a dramatic moment, a satisfying climax to exquisite storylines we imagine taking place between the dancers, who in the brief courtship may argue, resist, part, then reunite as destiny and their DNA has preordained. This is high drama set to music buried in the cultural stew of Argentina, with strains of music from European emigrées, gypsies, African slaves, and Brazilian country styles in the mix.
Performed in two acts, it is impossible to separate the music and the dancing. Each dance is followed by a musical interlude that all but sets you on the streets of an Argentine city. Mournful, wistful, seductive, it hovers like a drone targeting wherever you’ve buried that part of your dark, tormented, romantic soul. The orchestra, seated on tiers behind the dancers, contains all that is necessary. Cello (composer and creator Louis Bravo), violas, standup bass, piano and three bandoneons, the accordion-like signature instrument of the tango.
Soledad Buss and César Peral in “Forever Tango.”
Louis Bravo has described the tango as “a story you can tell in three minutes.” The brief plot in each routine lasts four or five minutes but are welded permanently into your visual cortex.
The men and women betray no emotion on their faces but communicate primal desire, fierce longing counterpoised with reticence, detachment and expressive body language. Their visages may be poker faces but the eyes are those of harlot or angel, womanizer or soul mate. Part of the draw to watching is that we can add our own story to the steamy ones we are witnessing.
The choreography, created by the dancers, includes complicated footwork, muscular lifts by the men, demanding extensions for the women, and exacting timing accomplished with exquisite athletic skill. Men's hands reach toward a woman's face. What's to come - a slap or a caress? Even more beguiling is a sense that the woman would accept either as long as it ended in a passionate coupling.
Each half of Forever Tango includes a smouldering torch song. The singer, her zoftig body squeezed into her low slung sequined dress, is all black tresses, ruby lips, and white teeth pouring out the power and fragility of romantic love.
Imagine an Argentinian soap opera set to music and sung to the rafters. No translation from Spanish is offered, none is necessary. The diva seeming to make eye contact with you in the orchestra, is singing your song, your history, resonating with every romantic memory you've had since you were a teenager. You are ready to die for love as she finishes, black hair flying, arms outstretched, your heart having burst like a Roman candle illuminating the pain and pleasure of every love you have ever known.
By the final number that, like the very first, involves all twelve dancers, we’ve witnessed an evening of intense emotional tension without a word being said by the main characters. Their gestures have spoken for themselves.
Photo courtesy Forever Tango