BWW Reviews: FOREVER TANGO Steams Up Broadway's Summer
Conceived and directed by Bravo, the two-act dance concert honoring Argentina's most provocative export has toured the world since its 1994 inception and now plays its third Broadway stint.
More of a supper club floor show than the usual theatre fare, the elegantly-mannered onstage eleven piece orchestra, led by Víctor Lavallén, features four gentlemen playing the bandoneón, the traditional concertina-type instrument. In fact, the show's primary dance team, Victoria Galoto and Juan Paulo Horvath, both make their entrances out of an oversized replica of the instrument.
They lead the company of eight couples who all perform their own self-choreographed duets. Though the evening contains no narrative, an ensemble piece early in the first act suggests how the dance was born over 100 years ago, when dockside laborers spent evenings in low-down establishments, finding comfort in cheap wine and slightly more expensive women. As danced traditionally, the tango is meant to represent the relationship between a prostitute and her customer, legs intricately intertwining with lustful intensity, but the upper body stiff and an emotionless glare between the two.
But as the tango became more popular, its movements were softened and romanticized, so the routines of Forever Tango display that evolution as the evening progresses, beginning with rigid physical expression while the lower legs perform lightning fast movements that make the feet seem to disappear and gradually turning to more balletic coupling. By the second act, couples are undulating and twisting in costume designer Argemira Affonso's sexier garb, capped off with Horvath lifting and spinning Galoto around with breathtaking acrobatic skill.
Adding name value to the proceedings, at least until they depart on August 11th, is the Ukrainian-born pair Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, known on these shores for their appearances on television's Dancing With The Stars. Performing routines choreographed by Horvath and Galoto, the popular duo perform with a more show-bizzy style; making more of an effort to play to the audience than their counterparts. Chmerkovskiy isn't above clowning a bit with his partner's skirt, granting peaks at his well-developed chest and shaking his fanny in the direction of squealing fans. I'll leave it to the dance critics to evaluate the technique of each couple but the intense sexuality of Horvath and Galoto seems to exude more authenticity.
Another standout couple is the eccentric Ariel Manzanares and his straight-woman partner Natalia Turelli, whose comical routines include a bit that spoofs rude audience members snapping photos during the performance.
Puerto Rican vocalist Gilberto Santo Rosa, a five time Grammy winner known as "The Gentleman of Salsa," received cheers from the gentlemen in the audience and swoons from the ladies at his every entrance on the evening I attended. His mellow, romantic baritone crooned favorites such as El Día Que Me Quieras ("The Day That You Love Me") and Que Alguien Me Diga ("Someone Tell Me"). His stay with the production is only until July 28th, when he'll be replaced by another Grammy winner, Luis Enrique.
Forever Tango will certainly attract audiences with a special appreciation for its brand of dance and music, but even Broadway babies raised on Fosse and Bennett should have a smolderingly good time as vividly sexual emotions wordlessly explode across the floor.
Call it the summer's hot new date night.