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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 22, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 04
Luis Bravo's Forever Tango an exciting evening of tango music and dance
Arts & Entertainment
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Luis Bravo's Forever Tango an exciting evening of tango music and dance

by Sharon Cumberland - SGN A&E Writer

LUIS BRAVO'S FOREVER TANGO
BENAROYA HALL
January 17


This exciting evening of tango music and dance featured two Russians, Ana Trebunskaya and Dmitry Chaplin, 'Dancing with the Stars' performers who wowed the audience with three appearances during the evening of a particularly acrobatic form of tango using lifts, flips, and throws. But it was the company consisting of six pairs of bailarines argentines who showed the audience what real tango looks like: the cat-like approach of the dancers, the intense gaze, the passionate embrace, the stylized walking full of 180° turns of the head and hips, the sudden changes in angle and direction. Each couple displayed a different variation on this catalogue of tango movements, but when all the couples stalked the stage together you felt transported to a dance hall in Buenos Aires, circa 1930.

It was a generous evening of group tangos and single couple dances performed to live music that took the audience from the tango's origins in the bordellos of Buenos Aires to the modern ballrooms of international competitive dance. There were several set pieces of dance drama and comedy, all in costumes that were worth the price of admission - men in fedoras and pin-striped suits, women in sparkling satin and velvet gowns, or fringed skirts that showed off their gorgeous legs and pretty feet in 'F-me' spiked heels.

Yet all of these great dancers served as accents to the heart-wringing, breath-taking music of Horacio Romo on the bandoneon, leading a band of eight that included Luis Bravo on cello, Hector Pineda on bass, and the awe-inspiring pianist, Jorge Vernieri. To Google any of these musicians is to discover a whole world of fame and admiration in the Argentinian music scene. I'll bet three-quarters of the audience that packed Benaroya Hall knew exactly who they are, while the other quarter, including myself, were discovering the magic of these virtuoso players for the first time.

I was especially fascinated by the bandoneon, a kind of giant concertina that the players held on one knee while expanding and contracting the snake-like bellows and playing keyboard buttons on the panels of each end. Horacio Romo sat in the center of this small orchestra conducting the two violins, viola, cello and bass with his head, while wringing out of his bandoneon the passionate sounds we associate with tango dancing. Jorge Vernieri sat at a grand piano weaving sounds together that made the orchestra seem as though it was twice its size. I had to count noses several times to assure myself they hadn't smuggled ten more players onto the stage, though the featured Russians used some recorded music. The Russians were also the only dancers who smiled, so that they seemed like visitors from another planet among the solemn, ardent Argentinians.

It appears from the Forever Tango program that tango is a dance form that depends entirely on sex differentiation, with the women in revealing outfits, the men in tight-fitting suits with the very masculine fedora tipped over one eye, and gestures of domination and submission on the parts of both men and women in the course of the highly erotic dance. I found myself wondering if there was any place in this dance style for gender fluidity, or if the men could be women and the women men. There was a brief scene in which two men 'fought' by dancing together and I thought 'What a shame that they have to be in a fight to embrace each other.' In discussing these thoughts with the SGN editor, I was happy to learn that Seattle has its own Queer Tango group (now called Open Role Tango) that offers, as their website says, 'a safe and welcoming space for learning and dancing tango for GLBT-identified individuals and couples, anyone who enjoys dancing with same-sex partners, people everywhere on the gender spectrum, and everyone who appreciates the opportunity to dance outside narrowly defined traditional gender roles.' (Check out queerseattletango.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/518503851526087/ for current information. NOTE: The next session starts this coming Monday, January 24th, at 7 p.m. at the Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Room 7. People are welcome to drop in for the first class to check it out for $15. The five-week series is also affordably priced at $65. No class on President's Day.)

As Forever Tango demonstrated in their intense and fascinating performance, this is a dance for anyone who wants to feel and express passion for another - in other words, it's a dance for everyone. Because of its origins as dance for regular people, regular people - no matter their orientation - can learn how to do it. Or the more sedentary among us (including myself) can have a marvelous time watching others do it, as I did watching Luis Bravo's Forever Tango at Benaroya Hall.

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