Reviewed Monday 22 May 2017

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s collaboration of tango and contemporary dancers was first seen at Sadler’s Wells in 2013. milonga is a stylish 90-minute production that features some wonderfully original concepts, indulgent tango and just occasionally some more ill-judged additions.

The cast comprise of an unbalanced mix of ten tango dancers with two contemporary. The marriage of tango with contemporary is not an entirely happy one, tango fans will feel the contemporary additions sit uncomfortably and vice versa. However, with spirited live music and atmospheric touches evoking the bustling streets of Buenos Aires there is much to enjoy here.

The individual contributions from each couple are well-pitched and performed with finesse. Their distinctive personalities add colour to the cast as a whole in the ensemble numbers. German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi’s style naturally remain true to the traditional. They are fiery, sensuous and evocative, with their warp speed leg flicks becoming harder and harder to fathom. Galeassi’s trademark leg extensions remain breathtaking too. It doesn’t matter how often you see these two, they remain flawless, awe inspiring, and audiences gasp in delight at the speed of their darting limbs.

Each number features a different overriding emotion. There’s a slower paced funeral scene where the woman dance sombrely, their faces obscured by veils. Conversely, one couple’s intense and erotic exchange boils over so uncontrollably it descends into violence, with a hearty slap in the face for the male. These small narrative fragments never develop into anything more, however.

Viviana D’Attorna and Bruno Gibertoni provide the comic relief with a light-hearted display of fun and flirty tango that climaxes in D’Attorna, who dons some oversized white-framed glasses, rejecting the ominous advances of Gibertoni. Their chemistry fizzles inconsistently and it’s good-natured intrigue that plays out in front of towering 3D projections which takes the audience on an eclectic and fast-paced journey through the city.

The brooding pas de trois – comprised of an all male cast to Libertango, a commonly used authentic piece of music from Astor Piazolla – is a choreographic highlight. Cherkaoui intelligently enlivens the well known score through a menacing face off between three tango titans, who weave between each other’s bodies with an increasing sense of urgency.

The key frustration with milonga is that tango requires no tweaking and no further investigation. Cherkaoui is attempting to break the mold with a contemporary couple, who crawl around on the floor, separated and then reunited on a crowded dancefloor, but it’s not necessary. The spectacular finale in which Galeassi is thrown above Cornejo’s head with one arm is the explosive and satisfying conclusion the audience want and it requires no further improvement.

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