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Dance Review

Tango's drama intensifies in theater context

By Karen Campbell
Globe Correspondent / January 31, 2009
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Few dance forms are as inherently dramatic as the Argentine tango. Control and submission, strength and vulnerability, passion and fury - it's all there in the carriage of the body, the stance of the embrace, the cast of the eyes, the dynamic of legs intertwining, cradling the thigh of a partner or slicing the air like a machete.

In TANGO: "Historias Breves," which dancer/choreographer Guillermina Quiroga and her Buenos Aires company brought to the Cutler Majestic Theatre last night in its Boston debut, the former star of "Forever Tango" and "Tango Argentina" tries to create a theatrical context for that drama in three "short stories" or dance suites set to taped music, interspersed with more traditional dances and live musical interludes.

The most successful suite, "Historias de tres" involves four dancers - a couple, the woman's lover, and a masked Destiny, who dances in between them as if suggesting it is fate that brings them all together and ultimately pulls them apart. "Festejando (Celebrating) -The Wedding Party" sets the scene at a wedding reception, with several of the guests ultimately having way too much to drink, to predictably comic though slightly forced effect. The surreal "Las de la Cruz, El sueño de Sor Juana (The Girls of the Cross, Sor Juana's Dream)" opens with Adam and Eve entwined like conjoined twins before they break apart to become two separate people. This is followed by a creepy scene bathed in red light of three women atop gravestone-like pedestals, arms outstretched as if nailed to crosses until they are "resurrected" by three men.

By and large, all the heightened theatricality engenders more narrative confusion and uneven pacing than truly compelling dance. When the troupe's most talented performers take the stage, it's quite enough that they simply dance.

Quiroga herself is the undisputed star of the show. She and partner Cesar Coelho have a distinctively elegant style combining stunningly long lines with graceful, liquid curves - both dancers have significant ballet training, and it shows to dazzling effect. Quiroga's legs extend with impeccable control into flamboyant splits and kicks, and Coelho sails through buoyant midair turns. In their partnering, Quiroga's luxuriously arched back makes for swoons that suggest both strength and abandon, her trademark posture one leg hyper-extended backward, heel almost touching head. The tall, attentive Coelho seems to lift her effortlessly into breathtaking tosses and spins that soar above his head or skim the ground. And though elegance is the watchword, their footwork is deft and superbly articulate, and their hips swivel side to side as if on separate planes than their torsos.

Two of the three other pairs of dancers display their own distinctive personalities. Deborah Quiroga and Angel Coria dance with an earthy, full-bodied flair, and Silvia Toscano and Marcelo Bernadaz dance with palpable enthusiasm, combining snappy footwork with sassy attitude. They have great comic style, and Bernadaz does one eye-popping routine with his leg swinging side to side at the knee like a pendulum on overdrive.

The evening's most disappointing component is the live music. The interludes of the Cacho Acuña Quartet, with singer Hernan Frizzera, are pedestrian and lackluster, breaking up the show's energy and flow.

TANGO: "Historias Breves"

World Music/CRASHarts

At: Cutler Majestic Theatre, last night (repeats today and tomorrow)

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