BWW Review: ESTAMPAS PORTENAS Brings Traditional Dances of Argentina in a New Cultural Light
On Saturday, November 5, 2016, Buenos Aires company Estampas Porteñas returned to the U.S. for a special one night engagement debuting their newest production Deseos: Stories of Longing and Desire along with works featuring tango and malambo- traditional dances of Argentina. Under the leadership of acclaimed dancer and choreographer Carolina Soler, this performance celebrates the essence of Argentine culture through music and dance.
Tango is a dance form that is a fusion of the many different cultures found among the populations mainly from Europe and Africa who settled in Rio de la Plata around the middle of the 19th century. Being that this population tended to be very poor and predominantly male, tango became a dance that was associated with brothels, slums, and prostitution. There were very few females around, making the dance very physical and provocative. Malambo is a dynamic blend of fast footwork (zapeteo), rhythmic stomping, and percussive sounds. It is from the traditions of the gauchos (South American cowboys) as a competitive duel to challenge one another's agility and strength dating back to the 17th century. I have personally seen these dances performed on separate occasions, but it was such a treat to see both on the same stage at the same time.
The program opened with the premiere of their new piece, Deseos: Stories of Longing and Desire. It tells the story of lovers Margot and Charlo who find themselves separated as Margot decides to move to the big and "bad" city of San Telmo as she finds herself in alarming situations with some unsavory characters while Charlo earnestly looks to be reunited with his love.
What a great piece! In the tango sections, the dancers are absolutely beautiful. They are flawless and make it look so easy with their quick hip rotations, small and large kicks, stunning lifts, and intricate spatial patterns. I also enjoyed the multimedia aspect of the dance. There was a projection shown in the background of different moving images that told you where each scene was taking place. This is an interesting concept, which has the potential for new artistic inspiration for future works.
I appreciated the malambo sections. I found them to be particularly exciting. It was pure perfection with their clean, crisp, and precise sounds with their hands, feet, and snaps. There was even a part when they danced with traditional Argentine drums (boleadores) that were wrapped around their bodies and with what looked like a long rope with a stone on one end that made a sound when the dancers struck the floor with the rope. Definitely a crowd favorite as you could tell by the cheers, claps, and whistles.
This particular show at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, located on the campus of Brooklyn College, kicked off its World of Dance series for the 2016-17 season. Since its inception in 1966, this program has shown works by more than 175 companies from across the globe. This year's lineup features performances by Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, and Step Afrika to name a few. For tickets and more information, please visit their website at brooklyncenter.org.
Photo Credit: Antonio Fresco