Review: Tango Fire - Flames of Desire - The Peacock

Performance: 27 January - 14 February 2015
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Friday 30 January 2015

Tango Fire 'Flames of Desire'. Photo: Bettina Strenske

Performance reviewed: 27 January 2015

Images of conflagration are often suggested in the title of theatrical dance shows, such as Burn The Floor or Blaze, and this production goes for the extra double-warmth-whammy in both the title of the company and the show. It’s a slightly off-target metaphor since I don’t so much see fire or flames; rather the sultry, steamy, smouldering heat of Buenos Aires, captured in dancing that (as George Bernard Shaw once said) ‘is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire’!

This slick, well-honed show is sold on tango as a popular and once-again fashionable dance form but, for me at least, it was the generous apportionment of time to the excellent onstage band and suave singer (Jesus Hidalgo) that made the evening extra special. Hidalgo accentuated the sentimentality of the show’s vintage flavour with a smooth singing style delivered with well-groomed savoir faire: his rendition of Vuelvo al Sur, a song with emotional significance to many Latin Americans, was sublime. The four young musicians (playing double bass, violin, piano and bandoneon), known collectively as Quarteto Fuego (yet another reference to fire), were excellent, whether interpreting traditional or more modern tangos.

Five pairs of dancers are led by the show’s leading choreographer – the 2005 world champion of tango – German Cornejo, who made all the group dances, whereas each of the five couples made their own duets. Cornejo partnered another world champion, Gisela Galeassi (she had won the title with another partner in 2003) and they make an extraordinarily handsome and acrobatic couple. Their two featured classical tangos – A Los Amigos in the first act and the breathtaking Susu towards the end of part 2 – were highlights from more than a dozen slick, rhythmic sensual dances, their work especially embellished by high lifts, fast turns, throws and whipping legs.

Ezequiel Lopez and Camila Alegre had wowed the audience as an hors d’oeuvre to Cornejo and Galeassi, with two tangos featuring a whirlwind of feet being thrown up in fast flourishes; legs being wrapped around the partner’s torso or hooked between their knees. The precision positioning of these whipped legs would be hard to achieve if the partner is stationary but with dancers moving like gazelles tripping gaily across the savannah, it must be like trying to thread a needle while sitting on the back of a roaring motorbike, again and again. It is an absurd allusion in many ways but I often find myself thinking that tango is like Irish dancing in hold. Avoiding painful kicks is part of the fascination! The group dancing, notably in the opening formality of a tango foxtrot and in the freer style of the closing cabaret, was uniformly tight and exciting.

The set designs were basic and often incongruous, especially when two lines of washing are lowered for a couple of dances and then raised again. There must be a South American rationale for this, perhaps related to the idea of an outside Milonga (a place or event where tango is danced), but it wasn’t obvious to the non-Latin eye. The frequent costume changes created variety and a continuing theme of elegance. This is a show that is especially easy on the eye and with 28 numbers (seven group dances and eleven partnered duets punctuated by eight songs and instrumental numbers) it is generously packed and very well-paced.

At the end of each number, an elderly gentleman seated directly behind me turned to his also elderly companion and said, loudly: “Can you do that”? I couldn’t hear her murmured replies but I doubt there are many soles on the planet that could have done that! This spectacular show is so consistently entertaining; I plan to get burnt again before it travels on to the next stop (Tokyo, in March).

Flames of Desire continues at The Peacock until 14 February. Details and dates: www.sadlerswells.com

Photos: Bettina Strenske



Graham Watts is a freelance dance writer and critic. He writes for Dancing Times, Dance Europe, Shinshokan Dance Magazine in Japan, Londondance.com, Dancetabs.com and other magazines and websites in Europe and the USA. He is Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle and of the National Dance Awards in the UK. Find him on Twitter @GWDanceWriter

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