The Buenos Aires-meets-Broadway show, Tango Fire, pulls the best elements from each sleek dance genre: the chemistry of partnering with a chorus of dancers performing in perfect unison, unfolding symmetrically like a kaleidoscope of whipping legs and stiletto heels. The refined and varied performance showcases pure Argentine tango brilliance – from beautiful artistic expression to technical steps and tricks.
German Cornejo: Tango Fire Review
The first half of Tango Fire is tan-go, go, go! The action-packed 45 minutes flash by with references to Argentine tango’s birthplace, the docks of Buenos Aires. Men roguishly one-up each other in fancy solo footwork, as a nod to the dance’s origins. They balance on their heels with their toes pointed skyward and abruptly swivel their hips to topple out of the freeze, accelerating into the next clever display.
And the frivolity continues as ladies dressed in A-line skirts swish over and join in the entertainment. The dancing seems so light-hearted and carefree, it’s hard to imagine that the first females to participate in the dance were prostitutes – and that Argentina’s upper classes looked down on the dance form until it found spectacular approval in Europe… Perhaps, the reputation of Argentine tango has been limited by association with the quote:
“Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.”– George Bernard Shaw
However, Tango Fire choreographer, Germán Cornejo, explains that passion is only one flavor of tango. In fact, he grew up tango dancing with his grandmother!
Indeed, the show’s variety encapsulates different facets of the dance from its humble beginning to sensuous duets and “tango cabaret” numbers. The musical style formations are neat, and thankfully far from campy, as they draw upon “more modern elements into the choreography and [reflect] the style of chorus lines in musicals” (according to the show program). Cornejo’s staging keeps the eye engaged as movement trails across the stage, sweeping the tango pairs in interesting canons and variations.
Following the rapid-fire first half, the audience is left to truly appreciate the masterful musicians, who play throughout, when the dancers leave stage for a few songs. In absence of the dancers, we see the music come alive by watching the musicians against the vibrant backdrop: the pianist occasionally shakes, rather than nods, his head as his forearms pop up and down over the keys; the string players’ elbows jab the air, as their bows swizzle back and forth; and the bandoneon laboriously breathes, lurching over the player’s knees in a downward arc. A moody jazz vibe emerges during short improvisation sections.
The stunts during Act II’s duets make the final famous lift from Dirty Dancing look like child’s play. The females jump, rotating into the tricks, gloriously float at the top – and suddenly unwind into dicey drops. Each couple choreographs their own dances, and watching Victoria Saudelli partner Sebastian Alvarez is especially exciting, since they are actually childhood sweethearts. (See if they don’t steal a few kisses on stage in the ‘moment’; I think I spotted two.) But the more nuanced duet of world tango champions Cornejo and partner, Gisela Galeassi, tops the show. The way they move together is intuitive, graceful and divine.
Tango Fire has toured globally for more than a decade, but it all feels fresh, atop a traditional tanguero vibe. After half the audience enthusiastically gives a standing ovation, and the stricter British audience claps in their seats (while glaring at their peers), the cast dutifully performs a short curtain call type number. Then the entire audience predictably loses track of the rhythm and claps ahead of the beat. But it doesn’t matter. Everyone is thrilled with the show, which delights with a combination of charm, lyricism and passion.
Have you ever seen Tango Fire? Let us know what you thought – and where you saw it – in the comments below.