Forever Tango - simultaneously dramatic and tender

November 18, 2010

'Forever Tango' a DWTS with a pedigree and better dancers

By Nancy G. Heller

For The Inquirer

November 18, 2010

I blame it on Dancing With the Stars.

Luis Bravo's Forever Tango - which began its five-day run at the Annenberg Center on Tuesday night - shares many hallmarks of that wildly popular television show, notably women's costumes that go beyond revealing into the realm of poor taste, plus an emphasis on glitzy but generic acrobatic "tricks." As a result, some parts of Bravo's program have surprisingly little to do with tango.

Mind you, all eight of the dancers in this troupe are first-rate, as are the seven instrumentalists. And when Forever Tango calmed down long enough to simply play and dance tango, it was marvelous. My favorite couple was Mariana Bojanich and Sebastian Ripoli, who consistently brought a combination of elegance and sensuality - and just a hint of danger - to their dancing. Also, several of the purely instrumental numbers were simultaneously dramatic and tender.

But apparently Luis Bravo, the classically trained cellist who invented this show and plays in its onstage orchestra, doesn't trust his audiences to revel in the nuances of beautifully presented tango. Instead, he crams more than 20 short numbers into less than two hours, and encourages the dancers (who create their own choreography) to believe that more is never enough.

To be fair, Bravo's formula seems to work, as Forever Tango is now a 15-year-old international phenomenon. And the opening-night audience did express its greatest enthusiasm for the over-the-top performance of Victoria Galoto, clad in a shiny silver outfit that made her look more like a character from The Jetsons than a professional tango artist. She and her partner, the estimable Juan Paulo Horvath, executed complex, daring lifts and spins that brought audible gasps from the crowd.

In a practical sense, Forever Tango has to deal with the same challenge facing every troupe focusing on art forms associated with particular geographical or ethnic traditions: how to be sufficiently "commercial" to appeal to large, mainly foreign, audiences, while retaining the essence that makes Argentine tango, Spanish flamenco, or Irish step dancing special in the first place. This is tough. But better sound would help; on Tuesday everything was drastically over-miked.