By Lucy Komisar
The defining moment of “Forever Tango” is the opening production number that takes place in a bordello. The men wear pin stripes, black cravats, Borsalino hats and menacing looks, and the women, in slinky gowns, move among them, sometimes passing bills to the pimp. The language is tango, as the men and women interact with the circles and twists and back kicks that define this dance.
But it‘s also defined by the grim faces of the dancers, who never during the evening ever smile. As an expression of her submission, one woman polishes the pimp‘s shoes with a handkerchief. It was a grim life.
Tango started when African rhythms connected to the Argentina milonga in the early 1900s in the low dives and bordellos of Buenos Aires. It has developed as a very dramatic dance, accompanied by the bandoneon (like an accordion) and violin and in this case cellos and a piano.
The production is not just traditional tango. “Forever Tango,” directed by Luis Bravo but choreographed by the dancers, finds distinctions in the standard steps.
Juan Paulo Horvath, the dance captain, and Victoria Galoto, who has danced with Merce Cunningham and Alvin Ailey, add modern dance lifts and twirls to “Comme I‘ll Faut.” That is necessary, because otherwise the dances are pretty much the same. And except for the bordello number, there‘s not much story to the dances.
The other couples are also accomplished, mostly sultry and in the case of Natalia Turelli and Ariel Manzanares, comic. And of course, there‘s a return of the thuggish men.
Costume designer Argemira Affonso creates gorgeous, glittery women‘s gowns that would fit more at a rich-people‘s benefit event than in a waterfront bordello.
That the women can do the fast steps and twists in spike heels is quite amazing. And, by the way, most of the dancers appear to be in their 30s and 40s.
The major downside in the production is Puerto Rican pop singer Luis Fonsi, who performs songs that have nothing to do with tango. It doesn‘t help that his voice is pedestrian and lacks melody and drama. He was apparently added to the bill because he is a hot star for Latinos to whom the producers pitched the show.
“Forever Tango.” Created and directed by Luis Bravo, choreographed by The Dancers. Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street, New York City. (212) 239-6240. Opened July 14, 2013; closes Sept. 15, 2013. 8/30/13. View on New York Theatre-Wire.