Forever Tango Created and Directed by Luis Bravo. Choreography by the dancers. Orchestra Director Victor Lavallén. Dancers: Jorge Torres, Marcela Durán & Guillermina Quiroga, Gabriel Ortega & Sandra Bootz, Carlos Vera & Laura Marcarie, Francisco Forquera & Natalia Hills, Marcelo Bernadaz & Veronic Gardella, Claudio Gonzalez & Melina Brufman, Alejandra Gutty & Juan Paulo Horvath. Singer: Miguel Velazquez. Musicians: Bandoneons: Victor Lavallén, Santos Maggi, Jorge Trivisonno, Carlos Niesi, Violins: Rodion Boshoer, Abraham Becker, Viola: Alexander Sechkin, Cello: Patricio Villarejo, Bass: Pablo Motta, Piano: Jorge Vernieri, Keyboard: Gustavo Casenave. Lighting design by Luis Bravo. Costume design by Argemira Affonso. Sound design by Mike Miller. Hair and make-up design by Jean Luc Don Vito.
For those of you who like your dance straight up and full strength, you're not going to want to miss the return engagement of Forever Tango at the Shubert, especially if you've never seen it before. Luis Bravo's Argentinean dance spectacle first hit Broadway in 1997, and remains one of those shows that seems like it can't possibly work until you're watching it unfold successfully before your eyes.
If it's unlikely to appeal to everyone - particularly those who like their dance firmly wedded to drama - Forever Tango is enjoyable as an example of world-class technical proficiency married to the unbridled sultriness of a dance that emerges straight from the soul. The result is an evening of dance full of swirl and spice, a perfect date show capable of making an already humid summer evening just a little bit hotter.
What's interesting is that this is essentially a history lesson told entirely through example. Through some two dozen songs, scenes, and standalone dances, the show charts the history of the tango from its beginnings in late 19th-century brothels and through a number of different cultures that appropriated it and fell in love with the romantic and sexual dance. There's no real narrative, and little other conceptual framework. While a few numbers are attractively sung by Miguel Velazquez, there's no dialogue to speak of - Bravo, who created and directed the show, prefers that the dance itself do all the talking.
If you doubt that a show of this nature is likely to sustain your interest over the course of two hours, you're best advised to stay away - Forever Tango will most likely grow interminable for you after the first ten minutes. But if you're willing to take the plunge, the kaleidoscopic collage of dance proves often amazing to watch; the company's fifteen dancers (all of whom are credited with the show's choreography) display a captivating intensity and stamina that allow Forever Tango to, at its best moments, reach scintillating heights.
These moments most notably include Francisco Mercado and Natalia Hills dancing steamily to "Derecho Viejo" in the first act, and Jorge Torres and Guillermina Quiroga performing the sensual and balletic - and inescapably moving - "Romance entre el Bandoneón mi Alma" in the second. Other highlights include the comic "La Tablada," a larkish riff on the Argentinean middle class (danced by Marcelo Bernadaz and Verónica Gardella) and "La Cumparsita," perhaps the world's most famous tango, magnetically performed by three couples (Mercado and Hills, Alejandra Gutty and Juan Paulo Horvath, and Carlos Vera and Laura Marcarie) at once.
The show is backed well by the 11-person band under Victor Lavallén's musical direction. Lavallén and three other musicians play the bandoneon, an accordion-style Argentinean instrument of German origin, that gives all the show's music a specific and heavily flavorful sound that often makes at least as much of an impression (if not more of one) than the dancing. But the show derives most of its appeal from the give and take of the music and the dance, the way the evening seems to be choreographed beyond what the dancers are doing. In this way, a sense of flow - if a slight one - is maintained throughout.
The dancers' lightning-fast leg movements and perfect control over their partners are impressive, and garnered a great deal of spontaneous applause at the performance I attended, and they seem even more magical when complemented by Argemira Affonso's beautiful and glittering costumes (frequently exquisite evening wear) and the lights (which Bravo also designed).
It should be noted that, despite the fine physical trappings and the immense talent of its cast, Forever Tango never feels particularly theatrical. In the end, though, that doesn't matter too much, for it feels very polished, very complete, and perfectly executed - in every way - for what it is.