You may think you know everything about the tango after using up a 10-class punch-card at your local dance studio and DVRing every critique from Bruno, Len and Carrie Ann on "Dancing with the Stars." Oh, but you've never seen tango quite like this.
At the New Victory Theatre, Brenda Angiel Aerial Dance Company presents the new show 8cho Aerial Tango (pronounced "ocho" like the Spanish word for "eight"), which showcases this fiery dance form favorite with a twist (and a leap) - it uses circus-like aerial elements for a unique take on tango.
The show gives a sampling of over a dozen tango numbers without a narrative. The dances are accompanied by a mostly original score played by an amazing authentic Argentinean sextet and expressive vocalist (Alejandro Guyot), who also perform a handful of instrumental and vocal pieces. The three or four minute numbers work something like tapas - many small bites that leave you satisfied by the end of the hour-long tango feast.
Director/choreographer Angiel stages a variety of numbers, demonstrating the breadth of the art form. Each dance is styled differently, using simple costumes (Caroline Ferraiuolo, Pilar Belmonte) and crisp, dramatic lighting (David Ferri) to create many moods, from haunting to romantic to funky. Also, the number of performers differs, resulting in a solo, several pair dances, a trio and larger ensemble dances with two or three pairs. Furthermore, the aerial elements vary from dance to dance. Sometimes, only one in a pair soars through the air while the partner is on the ground, while in other numbers, four dancers hang two-by-two in a complicated web of cords. The variety keeps the audience on their toes and intrigued.
Yet, you don't know what is missing until the standout number entitled "Tangay." Against orange sunset-inspired lighting, a woman in a silky dress (Viviana Finkelstein) glides and touches down with the lightest of fancy footwork with the help of her aerial harness and partner (Lucas Coria). The flirtatious couple is interrupted by a third (Mauro Dann), transforming this delightful duet into a comedic and narrative trio. Unlike most of the other dramatic, sexy numbers, this crowd-pleaser is carefree and refreshing and makes you wish other numbers had narratives as well.
The precise footwork in "Tangay" also makes other weaknesses more apparent. After repeatedly seeing many similar leaps and glides, some aerial effects eventually become normalized and lose some of their novelty, at which point any sloppy execution stands out. Because of the fluidity and bounciness of the aerial mechanisms, the dancers are not always able to use the same precision as they can when they dance anchored on the ground. The gorgeous lines and stunning mid-air poses make up for some of this sloppiness, but not all of it, and when the sloppiness is paired with a multitude of dangling cords, the end result is a chaotic stage picture that lacks focus. Additionally, with no overall plot, the numbers can sometimes seem disjointed, though not unenjoyable, and kids and adults alike can appreciate and enjoy the freedom that the aerial component adds to tango.
Photo credit: Carlos Furman, Carlos Goldenberg