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Tango Por Dos in La Historia

Posted on May 24, 2006

Miguel Angel Zotto brought his Tango Por Dos, from Argentina, back to the Peacock Theatre May 24-June 11. The present popularity of social dance styles, and fond memories of these superb dancers, ensured full houses and much enthusiasm but I found the evening less enthralling than in the past.

The new show, La Historia, aims to trace the history of the company and pay tribute to some influential choreographers and composers who have helped shape the development of Tango Por Dos. The first half, running just over an hour, has the six superb musicians on a platform across the back of the dancing area while, below and in front of them, the 16 dancers present a medley of virtuoso tangos. The basic tango steps, danced by men with men or men with women, are embroidered with dazzling fast footwork while the sultry lighting suggests something of the milieux in which the dance had its origins.

Extracts from previous shows recapture the beauty and excitement that we associate with Zotto and his gifted team. Passion and tension smoulder, but are contained within the dance itself. The second half of the show is altogether different. The musicians are now at stage level, and the raised platform is used in numbers, which suggest various associated locations: the underworld of the earliest styles, the immigrant arrivals, the brothels, the mannequins in a department store. There are film projections, speech and vibrant song (from guest artist Maria José Mentana and that best of compères Claudio Garces) but the whole section is too busy and too long.

So much has been crammed in that the basic story line is lost and the dancing, brilliant as ever, obscured by the trimmings. Nimble and boldly seductive as the ladies are, it is the men who have the most nifty footwork and whose personalities dominate the show. All are supremely talented, expertly trained, but, when he is dancing and not clowning (fine clown though he is) it is the most senior of them, Miguel Angel Zotto himself, who most powerfully epitomises tango. Tango, I suspect, like other dance forms, notably those of India and Spain, is seen at its best when it is true to itself. Polonius had a point.

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