Tango Moderno

For a while I debated posting this as I really dislike being negative (ESPECIALLY about anything to do with theatre) but I promised myself I would blog about every production I see so here we are!

I recently went to see Argentine tango champions (and Strictly stars) Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s show, Tango Moderno. As two of the most dynamic dancers to grace the screens of the BBC programme, the opportunity to see them on their own terms filled me with excitement and I failed to see how their show could be anything other than spectacular. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The show was not without its highlights – the closing dances of both acts by the two professionals were incredible; their final argentine tango utterly electric and earning a well deserved standing ovation. Rebecca Lisweski on vocals was a joy to behold, effortlessly belting out hit after hit in an endlessly-comfortable range and lending real depth to emotional pieces (such as the stunning rumba to ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’).

The inclusion of live voices however, in particular the male guide throughout the show, seemed oddly out of place in a production centred around dance. The odd poetry did not add anything to the experience and the speaker even stole focus from some of the quiet contemporary numbers which I felt was a huge shame – these had the potential to be both moving and impressive but instead simply melded into an indistinct series.

You could describe how this music of the streets came to be ignored and suppressed, celebrated and exported, loved and loathed.

Mark Fisher on the Tango, 2018

Flavia Cacacae’s costumes were breathtakingly beautiful and, for me, stole the show (I would be interested to know why some of the other dancers were clothed in anything from sack dresses to a tracksuit). Upon arrival the set intially reminded me of Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man, with railings and vandalised garage doors providing the perfect set up for a dark and atmospheric production: something that wasn’t fully realised until the electrifying final performance which even then seemed to exist independently to the rest of the production.

The biggest let down for me, however, was the pervading sense that no number reached its full potential, and a show that should have sparkled merely… happened. I have spent many a sleepless night listening to Sam Smith’s ‘Lay Me Down’, choreographing routines that I would never have the skill to perform myself yet appeared in my imagination with each swell of the music. In Tango Moderno‘s version I found myself waiting for the dramatic moment of reunion, even a simple but effectively impressive lift, something that never appeared. The routine was beautiful, sure, but lacked anything to determine it as special from any of the other dances. Much of the music throughout the show was not used to its full potential, with many exhilarating numbers hidden behind a bizarre use of props and juxtaposed against a painfully ‘funny’ opening sequences.

Tango is exciting, inspiring, gripping dance. Whilst I strongly believe it is important to bring these art forms to a contemporary audience in fresh, exciting ways, it is equally important they maintain the original spirit of these dances which are rooted in culture and tradition. Whilst the attempt in Tango Moderno was tangible, from mobile phones to packed tube carriages, each routine could have provided so much more for the audience and created a real impact on the dance scene.

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