I was curious and skeptical. This was not to be a program of classic dance with choreographed mannerisms or modern dance with its free spirited eccentricity. Nor was it Broadway dance – Bob Fosse to amaze, Jerome Robbins to dazzle. This was Tango – ballroom dancing; two hours of ballroom. I had seen tango, so how many variations of the same standard moves can they do? I went to see Forever Tango. I don’t know at what some of my fellow critics were looking. Two looked out of prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw stars. I guess it is true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. This beholder was charmed, impressed and ultimately thrilled. It was apparent that the Tango was more than a ballroom dance.

The concept for, Forever Tango is simple. There are no multi-faceted, colorful sets to distract. On a bare stage using lighting imaginatively to create, style, tone, and shape a company of 16 holds forth, demands your attention, and attacks your senses. Four dance couples and three principal women, dominate the stage. They use all of it to great advantage. The one singer, Martin De Leon, proudly, and robustly conveys the vocal line of Tango to match the dexterity, and passion of the dancers. What intrigued me was that, according to the program, the dancers were responsible for their own choreography. It was uniformly wonderful. They are, each and every one, accomplished artists. The program was even spiked with intervals of humor, perhaps a bit cutesy, but still clear that the performers were fine accomplished dancers.

They are all guided by an on-stage eleven piece orchestra featuring four accordion players who engage the dancers, support and encourage them, and accompany Mr. De Leon enthusiastically. The orchestrations stand out and the accordion is as natural to the Tango as if it was created for it. Actually the accordion, complicated instrument that it is, was brought by immigrants to Argentina and perfectly suited the Tango. The accordion adds just the right thrilling new element to the music. It is the flexibility that makes the difference, as one hand fingers the rhythms, the other picks out the melody line. They seem to be playing against each other. The result flows through the Tango and makes it uniquely distinguishable. The entire company seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience.

I wanted to know more so I sat down with Luis Bravo who conceived it, created it, and was involved in every aspect of production and presentation, the man behind, Forever Tango.

When he was eight, Luis Bravo moved from the countryside to Buenos Aires. He attended the Conservatory of Music and later the University of Buenos Aires. After graduation he became a member of the Argentine National Symphony. His instrument is the cello. He moved to the U.S. in 1981 to study with celebrated teacher Ronald Leonard. Mr. Bravo went on to establish himself as a classical performer and artistic producer focusing on Argentine song and dance, incorporating and juxtaposing the rural gaucho dance traditions with the urban immigrant sophistication of Buenos Aires. For Luis Bravo it all came together in the Tango. Basic folkloric culture combined with European influences make up this uniquely Argentine dance.

The Tango, Mr. Bravo explained, “is a feeling … heightened emotion that you dance. It is a story channeled through the nod of a head …the flick of a leg…the tap of a foot and the arch of an eyebrow.” He continued, “it is passionate, tinged with sadness and just a breath away …the promise of violence.” He went on, “The man and the woman dance together yet seem alone, confined within themselves. For Mr. Bravo, Forever Tango represents the classic conflict of the culture of the land, The Pampas, that great expanse of dry to the horizon, emptiness, and Buenos Aires city lights and excitement. It was the clash of the elite and the countryside and as it must be the clash between man and woman. Luis Bravo is passionate about the Tango. Everybody thinks Tango is about sex. It is really the drama of life. At first it seems that man leads the woman. Then, as you watch the intimacy unfold, you wonder who leads who. The woman is a full partner, equal in this fascinating dance of life. It is the eternal struggle for intimacy and meaning. It is the story of love. It is thrilling to watch.

Mr. Bravo told me that it’s natural and easy to equate the tango with sex since it started in the brothels. However, those early brothels were more than sexual palaces. They were also places for friends to drink, talk, play cards and dance the Tango. The wealthy were intrigued by the Tango. Of course they couldn’t bring it into society so they did what all adventurers do, they took it to Paris. Paris loved it and added its refinements and exploded it to the rest of the world.

I now understood that the Tango was more than just a ballroom dance. What I had been watching and why it excited me was that it reflected a way of life, a culture; Argentine in music, dance and drama, Argentine in origin, universal in appeal.

If you missed the performance this time around, since it tours constantly, it’s sure to be back. Put it on your bucket list. It is a production not to be missed. You’ll dance in your seat. It’s just that kind of infectious show.

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