Tag Archives: dance

Theatre review – Tango Moderno

Tango Moderno – review for Essential Surrey website.

5 STARS, November 1-4. This is an irresistible explosion of dance, music and song, says Andrew Morris

20543791_2357300391161841_107734546262370387_o.jpg

The tango has its dance roots in the barrios of Buenos Aires, fused with immigrant influences and rhythms from Andalusia and Africa. It thrived in Argentina in the 1930s and exploded anew into the British consciousness with the huge success in recent years of Strictly Come Dancing.

The authentic Argentine tango exudes passion and physical closeness, ‘the heat of the streets and the pulse of life.’ To the spectator, the dance steps look impossibly intricate but for the dancers, the emotion is perhaps more important than the technique. As Al Pacino says in the famous scene from Scent of a Woman, ‘there are no mistakes in the tango. Unlike life.’

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace have become synonymous with the tango revival in this country. Multiple UK, European and World Champion dancers, they have used their Strictly stardom to move into choreographing, and performing in, innovative new shows.

Their first – Midnight Tango – was based in a moody Buenos Aires bar, weaving a story of tangled love through dazzling displays of the authentic version of the dance.

They are now performing their fourth collaboration – Tango Moderno – co-choreographed with, and directed by, Karen Bruce and I was lucky to catch it at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre. Sadly, Vincent was injured and unable to dance, but his place has been taken temporarily by two world-class dancers, Italian Pasquale La Rocca and Argentinian Leonel Di Cocco.

Tango Moderno is heavily influenced by the classic Argentine dance, but the show has been deftly constructed to be so much more.

A dynamic team of youthfully exuberant dancers perform routines influenced by ballet, hip-hop, cha-cha-cha, break-dancing and many other styles. A cleverly consistent theme of searching for love runs through each piece, with whimsical sets energising the stories. In one, would-be lovers swipe a huge mobile phone screen to deliver Tinder-matches and entertainingly danced date nights. In another, the couples introduce garden tools into a dance. Really.

The story of the show is narrated by Tom Parsons, often in comedic rhyming couplets. The epitome of cool, he wanders through the performance like a roaming troubadour, guitar slung across his shoulder and breaking into excellent voice to accompany some of the dances. His delivery of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s I’m Only Human will haunt me for a while yet. Rebecca Lisewski shines with voice and is also one of the dance team.

But of course the star of the show is Flavia Cacace. She floats in and out of the danced love stories, and book-ends both halves of the show with sensual performances of the authentic Argentine tango, lithe limbs wrapping around her partner in a blur of ochossacadas and trabadas.

This quality of dance and song is only achieved with the help of equally professional musicians, especially from Oliver Lewis, a virtuoso performer who was recognised as the world record speed-violinist in 2010.

The final tango number, with a sensational marriage of classic Argentinian dance and raking violin, brought the house down, sending the rapturous audience out into the Woking barrio, in search of an empanada and dreaming of a trip to Buenos Aires.

Argentina map, courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

 

Book review – Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith burst onto the literary scene, like a dazzling meteor, with the publication of White Teeth in 2000, written while studying English literature at Cambridge.

Image result for white teeth book

That debut novel captures perfectly the complicated relationships between the English and migrants, particularly those from the old colonial countries. Based in her native north-west London, as most of Smith’s novels are, friends Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal are beautifully drawn characters, with depth and warmth. Their story and the writing linger long in the memory.

Image result for swing time novel

Swing Time also has its roots in north London. Two young brown girls (mixed race, like Smith herself) meet at a community dance class. Tracey is talented and wild. The never-named narrator is smarter, but not such a great dancer.

The novel tracks their stories and relationship over the next 25 years of adolescence and young adult life.

Tracey has some brief but minor stage success, but descends into council estate poverty, with bitterness and with several children from different fathers.

The narrator finds that a weird globetrotting existence, as PA for a Madonna-like superstar, suits her aimless ambition. With no life of her own, she is glued to Aimee’s whims and changing directions. Based mainly in London and New York, as the writer herself is, the story takes on a different dimension when Aimee decides to fund a girls’ school in West Africa.

The lesser characters in Swing Time are subtly drawn. Aimee is besotted with much younger Lamin, from the African village, and wants him to become part of her inner circle. Beautiful young Hawa, also from the village, chooses a different escape route. Intellectual philanthropic facilitator Fernando from Brazil falls in love with the narrator.

The novel has been well received, but I’m afraid it falls short of the lasting impression I had after turning the final page of White Teeth. Zadie Smith’s novels have won prizes, she is often included in most influential people lists, and she lives a gilded life spanning New York and London. But somehow Swing Time feels a little too much like a hook for her personal concerns and political beliefs, than a well-formed story with wholly believable characters.

Maybe I’m being excessively critical, but you set the bar very high with White Teeth, Ms Smith. Can you please find another meteor?

Image result for meteor