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TANGO FIRE (article first published : 2006-02-25)

A hot and humid Durban evening. Despite the charm and ambience of the Sibiya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom gardens and its bubbling stream, the air-conditioning of the beautiful iZulu Theatre beckoned strongly. We collapsed in a heap in the comfortable spacious auditorium and awaited the performance with interest. On a warm night like this, were we ready for more sultriness in a programme devoted to The Tango, an undeniably passionate and sexy dance form?

We certainly were. Tonight saw the South African premiere of Tango Fire which has started its nationwide tour in Durban and the gasps of appreciation from this evening’s audience will no doubt be echoed around the country as others become spellbound by the professionalism and magic of the internationally renowned Estampas Porteñas Tango Company.

Based in Buenos Aires, the company was founded in 1996 by the distinguished Argentinean ballerina and choreographer, Caroline Soler, and the influence of her classic training can be seen in her dancers. Focus, control and extension of line is very strong and - imagining the footage as seen through a camera lens – each halted frame would undoubtedly produce a stunning image. There was high precision without regimentation, allowing the passionate soul of the tango to reign supreme.

Tango Fire traces the history of the Tango, from its origins in the red light district of Buenos Aires in the latter half of the 19th century to today’s contemporary style. The first half of the programme recalls scenes in dance halls – and some amusing Marx Brothers-type knockabout comedy - where tanguero and tanguera meet, interact and come together in this expressive dance, even if it is only for the required duration of four or five tangos (a “tanda”). Adding to this imagery is singer Diego Fama who links the dances, offering a cool interlude of song.

While the costumes in this section were fairly low key – smart and elegant, but not dazzling – their simplicity allowed audiences to appreciate the beautiful body lines. The dancers’ capacity to produce lighting fast “flick-kicks” so close to the body while intertwining with their partners, impressed with their speed, dexterity and incredible whiplash effect. Cultural weapons, if ever there were any. Move over, karate kicks!

The second part of the programme was a different story. The chairs and tables were removed to allow a larger performance space. Sequins and beading sparkled in a range of stunning outfits – some tantalizingly revealing – which took the mood of the show to cabaret and showbiz level.

Known as Quatrotango, the four young Argentinean musicians form as much a part of Tango Fire as the dancers and compelled as much attention. It is a brilliant group, each one an individual and a delight to watch.

Tango Fire runs until March 4, Tickets R195, booked at Computicket or Sibaya Box-Office on 031 580 5555. Do spend a little extra and get a programme. It’s beautifully presented and highly informative. – Caroline Smart

(After the Durban season “Tango Fire” tours to the Johannesburg Civic Mandela Theatre from March 7 to 19 and Artscape Opera House in Cape Town from March 21 to 26. All bookings through Computicket.)




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