BWW Interview: Luis Bravo Talks FOREVER TANGO and More; Comes to the McCallum, 1/11

Luis Bravo's internationally acclaimed Forever Tango has played to great acclaim in Europe, Canada and throughout the United States, and most recently, enjoyed its third run on Broadway. The McCallum Theatre Luis Bravo's Forever Tango for three performances -Saturday, January 11, at 8:00pm and Sunday, January 12, at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Forever Tango opened on Broadway in June of 1997 for what was expected to be an eight-week engagement. It ran for 14 months and has since been back to Broadway on two separate occasions.

The New York Times called Forever Tango "A must-see!" USA Today said "Forever Tango shows that the style is more than steamy - it's smart, even funny...a sensuous, seductive, pleasure." The New York Daily News raved that the show was "an evening of sheer pleasure! Sensual, elegant, dazzling!" And the Associated Press declared it to be "the most theatrical show on Broadway!" These sizzling reviews and huge demand for tickets forced the run to be extended again and again.

Forever Tango features fourteen world-class tango dancers, one vocalist and an on-stage eleven piece orchestra, including the instrument of the tango, the bandoneon, in an evening that celebrates the passionate music and dance of Argentina. The dances, performed to original and traditional music, are the result of collaboration between each couple and director/creator Bravo. "The tango is a feeling that you dance," says Bravo, "a story you tell in three minutes. It's passionate, it's melancholic. It's tender, violent. You dance it with somebody - but it is so internal, you dance it by yourself. More than just a dance, the tango is music, a drama, a culture, a way of life."

Forever Tango tells the story of the birth of the tango in 19th century Argentina where thousands of men, having abandoned a disintegrating Europe to emigrate to South America, found themselves in the crowded abattoirs (packing houses), the bars and street corners of the arrabales (outlying barrios), and in the enramadas (brothels). The tango was born of this lonely and violent existence. Originally shunned by Argentina society as indecent, the tango became an overnight craze in upper-class Paris when Argentine intellectuals taught it when traveling abroad. The tango quickly spread across Europe and to America, and was eventually re-imported home to Argentina society, though not unchanged, and today, the tango may be Argentina's best known export.

Luis Bravo is a world-class cellist who has performed with major symphonies throughout the world. His distinguished credits include appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Colon Theatre Opera House, the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and other prestigious ensembles. I had the opportunit to chat with Mr. Bravo about his upcoming engagement at The McCallum Theatre and more. Here are a few excerpts ffrom thea conversation.

DG: Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

LB: I am Argentinian. I was born in one of the provinces in Argentina and then I moved to Buenos Aires when I was eight years old, for education. And then I came to this country when I was twenty four and since then I have been living in the United States. Right now, I am living in Lexington, Kentucky,

DG: When did you first discover music?

LB: I must have been two or three years old.

DG: What are your recollections of that?

LB: Well, from my family. My mother is an artist. She was a big influence. I think my mentor was an uncle who was a priest that came to live in our town. He was a painter. He was a composer. And that's where it all started. From my mother, and from my family.

DG: I know Cello is your primary instrument, but is that where you started and do you play others?

LB: Yes, I play others. I play guitar. In fact, before playing the Cello I made my - I had a career as a professional guitar player and, ah --- playing classical music and mostly popular music from Argentina, -- tango and folklorico music - and then I began the Cello and since then, everything that happened in my life - yes.

DG: Do you remember the first time you ever played in front of an audience?

LB: I danced in front of an audience when I was four years old. I think I was in kindergarten. And my teacher was my first musical teacher, yeah.

DG: How would you describe "Forever Tango".

LB: I think it's like a concert - from the music. It's like attending a concert but with energy between the orchestra and the dancers and the audience. The show is very theatrical, it's not just music. The show is very, very theatrical. It's designed in a very simple way - music, dance and lighting. You don't have to speak the language to understand all these different stories.

DG: Where did the idea come for the production?

LB: My head.

DG: Was there a particular inspiration, or ...

LB: Well, I am most of my life as a classical player, a concert player, and at the same time I am playing popular music from some of the most renowned performers and composers of Argentinian music. And then I got to the point in my life that I wanted to present my own version of my culture, my music and our dance and that's how I came up with the idea to mount my own company.

DG: What was the process of creating and mounting the first production?

LB: It hasn't stopped. It isn't finished yet. After twenty five years on the road and being seen by over seven million people all over the world, and this is something where you're always trying new things, changing choreography, changing dancers, changing music - I am always changing the colors, the dynamics, the mood, the performers - and that's what keeps the show so alive and fresh.

DG: What is the difference between performing on Broadway and performing anywhere else?

LB: None. For us, on the stage, it doesn't matter. It's the same as anywhere else. New York, Tel Aviv, Toronto, China, Argentina. We don't make any special changes or selections. What we have is an expression of art that is the same everywhere,

DG: What is the most exciting or unexpected highlight or achievement with the production of Forever Tango?

LB: Probably the most exciting achievement is the recognition from people of different cultures. To see that we have the same reception from people of all different cultures - totally different cultures - the show just keeps getting stronger and stronger and stronger. I think the biggest achievement is just to stay alive and stay on stage, and just to go on stage every night with the same passion and the same hunger - that's the biggest achievement.

DG: What is the most exciting career achievement for you, personally?

LB: Do what I like to do. And make a living out of it.

DG: Are you working on any other projects?

LB: Yes, I'm working on something else. Something for the future. Yeah, I'm always working on other things.

DG: When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered on your tombstone?

LB: (long, long pause) Hmm. Well, if my work is there. I don't know. I'm so busy now I can't think how people are going to see me when I'm gone. The work is there.

The McCallum Theatre presents Luis Bravo's Forever Tango for three performances. Performance times are Saturday, January 11, at 8:00pm, and Sunday, January 12, at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Ticket prices are $75, $55, $45 and $25 and are available by calling the McCallum Theatre box office at (760) 340-ARTS or at the Theatre's web site at

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From This Author David Green