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Miguel Angel Zotto’s Buenos Aires Tango at the Peacock Theatre

Posted on January 29, 2008

I never thought I would say this: the best scene in Buenos Aires Tango is one with taped music. The latest show by dancer Miguel Angel Zotto has a mix of live and recorded music, dramatic scenes and simple dancing. The simplest, and loveliest, is a nostalgic scene with Zotto and his partners dancing to a series of classic, crackly recordings. This is the richest dancing of the night, showing off period style in a brilliant variety of rhythms. In the wittiest of these numbers, Zotto and his partner dance along the edge of the stage, here and there dipping a foot over the brink. It’s fast, stylish and sophisticated dancing.

Tango Por Dos is a strangely contradictory company. Zotto starts with a core of Argentine tango, but often tries to vary his programmes with dramatic numbers. Yet the more stress he lays on straightforward couple dancing, the more glamorous and accomplished these dancers look.

This time, the material slides between dancing and fancy scenarios. Throughout, projected backdrops evoke particular Buenos Aires locations: a square, a café, a brothel.  They provide local colour for a particular style, an implied history of tango. One early scene tells the story of underworld couple El Civico (Zotto in baggy trousers) and La Moreira (Analía Morales in lace dress, her stocking tops showing). Though Zotto’s footwork is neat, the drama is overwrought.

Things pick up as soon as they ditch the plots. Tango is such a pleasure to watch, with knife-edge footwork stabbing or flickering. Zotto, who leads the company, is unmistakably its star. His supporting dancers are sometimes pushed into production numbers, with glitzy matching outfits and group dances. The women twirl in glittery jackets and tights, or pretend to be accordion players, winding their instruments around themselves.

Given rather more of the spotlight, these dancers start to show more individuality. You begin to notice particular strengths: stronger lifts, bolder lunging steps, a dashing way with partnering or footwork. They’re all strong and relaxed, the women showing off exceptionally beautiful legs.

The band are solid rather than inspiring. Singer Claudio Garces belts out his numbers, while Pocho Palmer’s team have some exaggerated playing. Those crackly recordings come as a reminder of subtler and more infectious rhythms. 

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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