Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Luis Bravo's Forever Tango
Forever Tango returned to San Francisco in 1999 and 2004 when the San Francisco Chronicle reviewer said "it still stokes the fire down below." The current production has lost none of the original charisma. The music and dancing are superb and the costumes are dazzling.
Tango is a sensuous dance of Latin American origin with couples doing elaborate or dramatic steps, figures and poses. It became the rage here in the United States with the advent of Rudolph Valentino films in the 1920s.
Forever Tangoopens with the theatre in darkness. A lone spotlight shines on orchestra director Victor Lavallen playing a soft melodic melody on his bandoneón. Suddenly another lone bright light shines on a large fake bandoneón on the left side of the stage. Dressed all in black, dancer Patricio Touceda rises from the instrument. On the right side of the stage another solid bring light shines on sensuous Eva Lucero dressed in a stunning white gown and the pair starts to dance the intricate tango. Suddenly, all of the lights come up to display an eleven-piece orchestra with four bandoneón players, five string artists, a keyboardist and the incredible pianist Jorge Vernieri. The orchestra breaks out in the pulsating rhythms of the dance. This is an auspicious beginning for a night full of sensual dancing, with the men's sexy swaggering and the women's sweltering lines surrounding each melody as the dancers wrap their legs around each other, their eyes are engaged, their hands stroking necks, legs and back. All the women wear very tight dresses that are dazzling and the men are dressed to the nines.
The opening scene tells of the early home of tango, the brothels of Buenos Aires, while the women wear apparel fitting for their trade and the men moved around like cats, looking like ruffians known as "porteños," with cigarettes in their mouths and hats tilted over their eyes. Each man has one leg between the woman's legs, bending his body into hers until hips and lips are locked. The core group of five partner-pairs on the stage is exhilarating.
Following that thrilling scene, the dancers come out in pairs in chic black costumes to demonstrate their personal stylistic variations of the dance. Each pair outdoes the other with the orchestra playing effervescent rhythms. Melodies like the popular "Jealousy" and "Kiss of Fire" highlight many of the dances.
Claudio Villagra and Karina Piazza are radiant in a dance called "Derecho Viejo." Juan Carlos Martinez and Nora Witanowsky, a great fast-paced comic duo, have electrifying technique dancing on "Comme Il Faut" in a modern concept of the tango. They glide rapidly across the floor with their flexible bodies and they remind one of the jitterbug craze in the 1940s.
"Oro y Plata" ends the first act of this two hour and ten minute production. All of the thirteen dancers are dynamic doing a combination of equal parts tango and Jerome Robbins choreography.
Forever Tango's second act features more stylized tango dancing. Jorge Torres and Marcela Duran are beyond belief as they lock bodies together in a stimulating number. Alejandra Gutty and Juan Pablo Horvath are superb. Her figure is monumental with wonderful curves on her legs that outshine Cyd Charisse in her MGM days. Juan's dances are compact and mercurial in speed and his style is irresistible.
Forever Tango also features the wonderful Martin de Leon, who sings beautifully the soulful melody "Uno" and the lovely "El Dia que me Quieras." The orchestra gives a passionate performance of "Jealousy" with violist soloist Rodion Boshoer delicately playing the sublime melody. Jorge Vernieri does wonders on the keyboard in several of the effervescent pieces.
Forever Tango plays through January 21st at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained by calling 415-771-6900 or visiting any Ticketmaster outlet or by going to www.ticketmaster.com.