Forever Tango Returns to Heat Up Another New York Summer
Ushers at the Shubert Theatre should expect to see a lot of couples necking in the balcony this summer as Forever Tango returns to Broadway. Last seen in these parts in a thirteen month run during the 1997-98 season, Forever Tango is a dance and music review created by director Luis Bravo featuring an all-Argentinian cast that tours the world sharing the passion, violence and artistry of their country's most provocative export.
Born in the slums of 1920's Buenos Aires, the tango was created through a mixture of dance and musical styles brought to Argentina by impoverished European immigrants who followed their dawn to sundown dockside labors with 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. As the century progressed, the dance became more acceptable in proper society by having its violent sexuality softened up and romanticized, as best exemplified by the image of Rudolph Valentino making women swoon in his wide-rimmed hat, short coat and tight trousers. Today there are many styles of the tango incorporating variations of other dances, including the glittery show tango and formal ballroom tango.
I provide the above paragraph as a public service for those who are not tango aficionados because although Forever Tango is structured as a chronological history of the dance through various vignettes, songs and couplings, this history is never explained through program notes or narration. Actually, it may be, but I wouldn't know because each sequence in the program is listed only in Spanish, as are the lyrics sung by vocalist Miguel Velazquez. In fact, there are no composer credits for any of the music used. This lack of information may frustrate tango neophytes who don't understand Spanish and who'd like a chance to fully appreciate the dances presented, but perhaps Mr. Bravo just wanted us to relax and enjoy without being bogged down by too many details.
And there's certainly much to enjoy. With an orchestra of eleven distinguished looking tuxedo-clad gentlemen set upstage behind a dance floor populated by a cast of sixteen, the men frequently dressed in black tie or traditional white dinner jackets beneath their dark, slicked-down hair while the women display an alluring array of Argemira Affonso's creations, Forever Tango resembles an elegant supper club floor show more than a Broadway musical. There are no sets and the minimal lighting, designed by Bravo, only illuminate from the backstage wings and overhead fly space. This may make the show seem a bit under-lit, but it does provide the audience a chance to admire an unobstructed view of the gorgeous Shubert Theatre interior.
The choreography is by the dancers, many of whom have worked exclusively with their partners for years, enabling them to perform lightening quick feats of dangerously interlocking footwork, as best exemplified by a spectacularly acrobatic routine by Sandra Bootz and Gabriel Ortega. Jorge Torres and Guillermina Quiroga show a seductively fluid European influenced style with their balletic pas de deux and the comic duo of Marcelo Bernadaz and Veronica Gardella spoof the clumsier members of Argentina's upper crust showing that even when done completely wrong, the tango requires expert precision.
Come to think of it, is translation really necessary when faced with two hours of thigh softly caressing thigh, elegantly displayed curves being pulled tightly into strong, angular physiques and vividly sexual emotions wordlessly exploding across the floor?
I'll meet you in the balcony at 8:05.