Tango Lovers and All Shades of Tango
Bright red rouge, prowling hungry looks, split crotch red dresses, enough fish net stocking to outfit a trawler. No, not the latest installment of the Twilight series but the most recent Broadway tango show, Tango Lovers, to swing through South Florida.
Halloween may be just around the corner but every local tango teacher remembers nightmare moments on learning the touring schedule of Broadway tango companies. Successful shows do bring in students, but certain shows only bring in folks who want to do the dips, flips, and leg splits they saw the night before, and that can be a drag. Tango shows generally fit one of three molds:
1) They fuse tango with modern, jazz, and ballet to the point where the tango in them can be hard to find. Let’s call these shows, tango light.
2) They show off tango dancers so traditional they often look ready to head to the milongas at the end of the night (and they often do!). Let’s call them, tango heavy.
3) They take a real chance by writing plots that show something fresh about the traditional dance and the history of the region. Let’s call these, tango nuevo.
I wanted to know where the latest production of Tango Lovers fit in these categories and posed just this question to one of the show’s producers, Pierina Asti-Schulz.
She was quick to explain that she couldn’t fit Tango Lovers into any of these three categories, since the company’s overall emphasis on innovation and the commitment of its dancers and musicians to excellence really required that Tango Lovers be considered on its own as something new.
With such a strong focus on innovation and excellence, Tango Lovers needed its own category since, as she added, “we introduce classical, jazz, and contemporary elements to our dance while always preserving the essence of traditional tango.”
So far so good? I pressed Pierina on this point because tango audiences can be a notoriously tough group to satisfy. Newcomers generally are dazzled by the music and the dance, and rightfully so. However, Argentine ex-pats and sub-culture milonga-goers often want to see and hear something traditional with a capital T. For those who want to see, “el tango que el dio manda,” the word innovation can sound suspicious.
So I asked Pierina if she thought the company’s emphasis on innovation might scare away tango purists. She described the company’s overall strategy as that of attracting different generations and cultures to tango with a show that appeals to all tastes, which she admitted was difficult given just how diverse people’s tastes can be.
“We are able to achieve our goals by innovating and by giving the audience a different perspective of Tango. Tango is an expression of the culture of Rio de la Plata…We must innovate to evolve with people and their culture, preserving at the same time the essence of traditional tango.”
Admittedly a high bar to clear, but if the passion of Twilight’s Bella and Edward can bridge even that notoriously wide living/undead divide, then certainly the passion the musicians and dancers of Tango Lovers bring to the South Florida stage will leave us all pumping with the Rio de La Plata in our blood.
Tango Lovers will be performed at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on October 18 at the Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets range from $35 to $85; www.tangolovers.com.