Published on February 13th, 2013 | by Jon Santiago0
Review: Tango Troupe Brings Buenos Aires to the Holy City
Argentinian Tango Troupe
Charleston Music Hall, Feb. 8
Golden-era tango music and dance took the stage at the Charleston Music Hall last Friday night (Feb. 8). With host Pablo Weil at the helm, the Argentinian Tango Troupe closed out a week of Charleston-area tango events and ushered in the first of the Music Hall’s dance events with a presentation that was equal parts supper club show and Tango 101.
Weil, the company’s founder and producer, kicked off the show from the floor of the Hall. A single follow spot on him as he moved toward the stage, posing the questions: “What is tango? Where does it come from? What do we really know about this dance, this music?”
With this opening soliloquy, Weil set up the subsequent mini-lectures he delivered from the stage, a survey course covering tango’s roots in the slave trade and in the African dance candombé; its early reputation as a strictly barroom, lower-class “forbidden dance,” and the origins of that musical instrument most closely identified with tango music: the bandoneón. Beloved of composer and bandoneón virtuoso Ástor Piazzolla, it’s a concertina-like squeeze box that is to tango what the saxophone is to jazz.
These little history lessons arrived interspersed among his troupe’s dance exhibitions and music from the genre’s golden era efflorescence — the decades between and through the wars. At that time, tango launched its international climb to respectability and, along the way, planted the seeds of impassioned devotion among those seeing, hearing and dancing it for the first time. The sweeping rhythms of both the dance and the music effectively became Argentina’s offering of passion and romance to the world at a time in history when such things seemed in short supply.
The troupe’s stage set included a cozy sidewalk café and an outdoor setting featuring a park bench and streetlamp with the wide-open area in between given over to the work of two award-winning tango dance duos: Javier Villa with Vanina Perepelizin, and Jesús Taborda with Micaela Minervino.
The dancers played out little dramas with precise, spectacular moves that combined the improvisational style tango of Buenos Aires milongas (traditional tango get-togethers) and balletic flourishes, tied together with ballroom flash. They were a treat to watch. Impressive and well-choreographed, they didn’t require the video projections behind them to sell the audience on the dance itself. A particularly impressive sequence was danced to “Quejas de bandoneón.”
Lovely vocalist Amparo sang to pre-recorded music, sometimes weaving among the dancers as they twirled around her. The evening’s soundtrack included as many tango classics as might be fitted into the roughly 70-minute long performance, among them the most instantly recognizable tango in the world, “La Cumparsita.” Other classic tangos, a good many of them sung, made an appearance as well: “El Día Que Me Quieras,” “Mi Buenos Aires Querido,” and the beautifully emotional Piazzolla composition “Adios Nonino” to which Amparo gave her all, evoking the stage presence and command of the “Little Sparrow” herself, Édith Piaf.
It made for an altogether stylish evening and a nice prelude to the troupe’s next appearance in Charleston sometime later this spring. All in all, an inspiring show for both fledgling lovers of tango as well as lovers, period.
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