Tango dancers display skills and passions
Few choreographers today are as accomplished as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. The beloved Belgian has worked with everyone from Shaolin monks and ballet companies to Hollywood directors, absorbing eclectic styles and idioms like a sponge while somehow always remaining his true, singular self.
For his latest venture, Larbi has turned his attention to the tango — more specifically, the spirit of the informal tango parties known as milongas, and by extension the grand, passionate spirit of Buenos Aires itself.
For his milonga, Larbi pairs an extravagantly talented group of authentic, top-notch tangueros with a couple of contemporary dancers. The juxtaposition of the two vernaculars — one strict and explosive, the other flowing and enigmatic, is bewitching.
The tango dancers, who worked closely with Larbi on their segments, display astonishing skill. It’s all there: the intricate partnering, whipping legs, heart-stopping lifts and dips, and smouldering, theatrical sensuality. The pure tango sections had the spontaneous feel of a gathering in some smoky club, the intimate atmosphere heightened by the excellent live musicians perched on a small platform onstage, performing original music by Szymon Brzoska and Fernando Marzan.
There are moments of absolute magic: a desperate duet with the two contemporary dancers, pure Larbi with its sequence of slow, controlled tumbling; a delicious vaudevillian slapstick tango routine; a circular tango for three men that was pure knife-fight danger. The stagey design is a luscious treat for the eyes. Larbi makes clever use of photos and video projections of lively Buenos Aires streetscapes, images both vintage and modern that the dancers interact with and bring to life. The women’s costumes, by Tim Van Steenbergen, are droolworthy: vampy, slinky slashes of black silk and lace.
Once again, Larbi manages to create a work of both absolute rigour and immense appeal. His troupe of tangueros create more combustible chemistry than in Walter White’s lab.