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BWW Reviews: Luis Bravo's FOREVER TANGO Delights at Strathmore


Delighting audiences during several stints on Broadway and in cities across the country, Luis Bravo brought the flavor of the Argentine tango to Bethesda this week. Although certainly not standard fare for theatre or music/dance-loving communities, the hybrid Forever Tango is noteworthy for its dazzling dancing and equally impressive music performances that cannot be easily cast aside.

Director/creator Bravo's concert-dance sensation doesn't have a plot per se, but a talented group of six pairs of dancers, nine onstage musicians (including the multi-talented Bravo himself on cello), and one sultry singer, made it impossible for the Strathmore audience not to be completely immersed into the deeply passionate world which he presents on stage. Whether one is a tango novice or expert, the production offered something to behold even if it might get slightly repetitive.

Initially the orchestral and dance pieces present tango as it might be found in small, unassuming locations in Argentina, while the latter ones focus on the dance in its glitzier, showy form. Argemira Affonoso's costume designs are not only things of beauty, but are instrumental in showing this shift. Largely, this construct works and demonstrates the power of music and dance in all situations and, to some extent, shows the evolution of the dance.

Minimal production elements - there is a black backdrop and nothing more for a set - allow the focus to rightly be on the polished musicians and dancers without too much competing for the audience's attention. Bravo's subtle lighting design, however, adds a welcomed theatricality to the event.

Thanks to the great acoustics in the Music Center at Strathmore's concert hall, as well as Rolando Obregón's crisp sound design, the musicians flawless' and vigorous playing could be appreciated in its most natural form. Pablo Mainetii, Victor Lavellén, and Jorge Trivisonno (bandoneons - a staple of tango music) unique talents stood out the most, but I only wish I could have visibly observed their skillful playing even more closely in the orchestra-only numbers like "A los Amigos," and the energetic "Preludio a Mi Viejo." Huge music stands blocked the audience's view of their instruments for the most part as they are sitting down for the duration of the performance.

Forever Tango does well to capture the playful and more seductive elements of the dance. If Natalia Turelli and Ariel Manzanares' dances evoke humor ("La Tablada" and "Felicia") then a variety of others show the more seductive side of man and woman interaction. Among the most interesting in that vein to observe were "Tanguera" (Soledad Buss and César Peral) and "Vampitango" ("Zumo" Leguizamón and Belén Bartolomé). Twists, turns, close movements, and precise steps left me in awe of the talent at play, but also the pure emotion the dancers brought to the occasion.

We must not also forget the enormously talented vocalist Noemi Marcela who made a major impression on me. Whether accompanying the dancers and musicians in the finale, or standing in the spotlight alone without the dancers on the emotional "El Día Me Quieras," she excelled at combining precise vocals with undeniable stage presence and raw emotion.

As good as the orchestra, dancers, and singers were, I was wishing for more moments that allowed all three elements to come together as one beyond the finale. It would have brought a new, exciting dimension to the proceedings and allowed for a bit more cohesion among all of the pieces.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission.

This was a one-night-only performance at the Music Center at Strathmore on November 7, 2013. For more information about other events at this venue, consult its official website.

Photo: Forever Tango dancers; courtesy of Strathmore.

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From This Author Jennifer Perry