Midnight Tango (27 June, 2012), Edinburgh Playhouse, Review
“In Tango, there are no wrong turns. But every dance begins with a backward step.”
The seductive power of Latin America’s famous dance is celebrated in “Midnight Tango”, a stage show created by Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace – the superstar performers on the BBC TV series, Strictly Come Dancing.
I love ballet and contemporary dance but I have a confession. I have never seen this reality TV programme. But from the applause and shouts of joy when this duo stepped onto the stage, it would seem that 99% of the audience were fans of the show.
Midnight Tango is neither a musical nor a drama, but pure dance. The setting is a downtown bar in Buenos Aires where the Tango Siempre band - piano, bandoneon organ, violin, bass and drums - plays each night. To their foot tapping music, six couples strut their stuff, each subtle move, quietly but astutely observed by Carlos the portly Barman and Rosa, his seemingly timid wife as they serve coffee and wine.
Let’s start with a little cultural history on the Tango. It originated in the late 19th century around La Boca, the colourful, multi-ethnic district in Buenos Aires where the residents were a blend of former African slaves and immigrants from Europe. The men worked long days in the port, and then headed to the bars and bordellos where young, pretty local women would join them for an evening of drinking and dancing to a fusion of African, Spanish and Cuban music. The word Tango comes from the Latin verb “tangere”, to touch, and the Congo word “tangu” - to dance.
And in this show, "touch" is very much a focal point of the neat choreography which illustrates the grace and elegance of movement, the rhythm and romance of the mood.
To the beat of jazzy melodies, the dancers respond with perfect timing with high kicks, intimate intertwining of legs, girating hips and intricate foot work. The girls seem to drape themselves around their partners, while they are spun around the dance floor at speed, each dancer matching each twist and turn in close harmony.
And so we settle down to a sequence of Tango dance routines, from fast and furious to sexy and sultry. The costumes are simply gorgeous – flowing frocks and high heels complemented by neat suits, hats and spats. And taking centre stage are Vincent and Flavia, showing us how to do it in sassy style.
There is really no plot as such – there does not need to be. With no dialogue – just music, song and dance, it’s like watching a Silent Movie – as a simple story emerges between the group of friends, with a hint of intrigue and jealous sparring. On the sidelines is the strained relationship between Carlos and Rosa, who find it difficult to express their love for each other captured in the most touching vignettes.
The ensemble is simply world class: many dancers are from Argentina with its musical culture in their soul. And it shows. Midnight Tango is an authentic and spectacular dance masterclass performed with grace, precision and sparkling pizzazz.
Wednesday 27th June to Saturday 30th June, 2012