I don’t know if they have constructed a theme-hotel that evokes Buenos Aires in Las Vegas (after all, a replica Eiffel-tower graces the stretch of casinos), but if they did, and if it had a theatre, it might include Tango X2’s 20th Anniversary performance that is going on this weekend at New York City Center. (As far as I know, they are not going on tour to Vegas). This is porteña culture in the U.S.- tango decked-out in sequins with a lot of smiles and skin. However, there are moments of deep pauses and intimate glances that take the audience far from the flashy stage to the old dancehalls of Buenos Aires.
There is no question why Tango X2 is the most award-winning tango company in the world. The dancers and musicians are phenomenally talented. The company’s choreographer, Miguel Angel Zotto, is a captivating performer, a dashing gentleman with quicksilver footwork and spirited jumps. His poise and charm are perfectly understated in comparison to that of many of his younger dancers. It is easy to understand how his gorgeous and much younger partner, Daiana Guspero (a very mature dancer in her own right) could dance some breathtakingly believable love duets with a man who could be her father’s age. Together, they danced the unspeakable, understated, poetry of tango- a poetry that requires no extra frills- just pure intimacy. In the moments that they danced together, they seemed unaware of the audience and allowed us to enter into their intense conversation and thus into their Buenos Aires.
The majority of the show, however, did not lead itself to this sense intimacy. The well-honed cast winked, grinned and strutted their stuff for the audience in a bunch of sparkly numbers. The men remained buttoned up as the women writhed in scanty costumes, weaving in and out of their ganchos, or hooks, while making kissing faces to the public.
Act I, which shows the history of tango, from dances of the pampas to the dances of the brothels, and eventually to the high society of Paris and Buenos Aires. It begins with a “Malambo Sureño” (one of tango’s predecessors) danced by Gabriel Ponce. This short, rhythmic sequence displayed flawless footwork and elegant grace. The rest of the dances vacillate between heartfelt couplings and fleshy seductions, interspersed with images and songs of Buenos Aires.
Act II displays the talents of the 13 dancers (Zotto, Guspero, Gabriel Ponce, Analia Morales, Leandro Oliver, Laila Rezk, Pablo Garcia, Mariana Dragone, Facundo Gallo, Magdalena Valdez, Gonzalo Cuello, Ernesto Candal and Mariana Norando) with dagger-sharp footwork and marvelous choreographic partnerings. Unfortunately, some of the dances would better be suited for the musical Chicago or a Vegas review than as representations of Argentina’s most profound cultural symbol, the tango. In one dance, for example, women wearing nothing but derrier-bearing underwear under short, glittery jackets looked more like the aforementioned musical’s incarcerated femme fatales than tango dancers.
But behind the glitter and well-toned legs are some very gifted artists, and throughout the show, the musicians create a hauntingly gorgeous atmosphere with music from Gardél, Piazzolla and Pugliese, to name a few greats. Although Tango X2 creates a “Buenas Vegas” hybrid of tango and tassels, it is worth waiting through the showier moments to watch the moments of superb artistry.