Tango Fire brings classic Argentine dance to Gainesville


Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 12:08 p.m.

Promoted as Buenos Aires' "most acclaimed tango company," the dancers of Tango Fire will slick back their hair and strap on the stilettos to ignite the Phillips Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Tango Fire is a highly successful production that unites the dance troupe Estampas Portenas and the band Quatrotango, both based in Buenos Aires. The show made its North American debut in 2006, including a considerable run at The Joyce Theatre in New York City.

Though New York Times lead dance critic Alasdair Macaulay subsequently labeled the "Fire" lukewarm, criticizing the female dancers' perpetual pouts and over-the-top "bitchiness" as supplanting artistry with unconvincing, unrelenting attitude, many other critics, from Amsterdam to Zurich and from Sydney to Shanghai have found the production irresistible.

Last year, The Boston Globe wrote, "Rarely has the tempestuous tango looked like so much exuberant, out-and-out fun ... 10 exquisitely skilled dancers, with spirit and charisma to match ... are uniformly gorgeous."

An enthused reception is not surprising, as tango, Argentina's gift to the world, is composed of elements fundamentally appealing to most of us: romantic passion (the complicated legwork between partners demands an intimate embrace), technical virtuosity (dangerously sharp kicks and turns cross-stitch through unpredictable rhythms and tempos) and soulful music at turns languorous, tortured or playful.

"Tango Fire" presents true Argentine tango, not merely the "ballroom style" variety of the same name but different standardized aesthetic and codified make up.

Born more than 150 years ago in a seedy, struggling underworld of brothels and milongas, Argentine tango emerged as a proud, elegant social dance - arguably the most universally recognized. The intensity of both the dancing and its music galvanized popular social dance in the U.S. and Europe, particularly Paris, during the Roaring '20s.

Rudolf Valentino first popularized tango outside of Argentina in a 1921 silent film ("The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"), and from Fred Astaire's fame to a recent string of tango-themed movies in the '90s, Hollywood has profited from, disseminated and even influenced tango's delights.

Various instruments have accompanied the dancing through its sensational history (the etymology of the word "tango" itself is linked to tambor, or "drum.") Violin, guitar and flute are traditionally used, though today they are secondary to the concertina-like bandoneon.

The music selections in Tango Fire are by some of the art's most famous composers, including Astor Piazzolla. The show's band, Quatrotango, formed independently from the production in 2000. Featuring bandoneon, piano, violin and double bass, the group performs throughout Argentina, and appears on national radio as well as at Buenos Aires' most prestigious tango milongas, or salon gatherings.

Vocalist Javier "Cardenal" Dominguez has performed for the Argentine president and national congress and is a staple of the International Tango Festival.

The dancers themselves, five <0x00FC>ber-fit couples, have trained, taught and performed worldwide. They include German Cornejo, the 2005 World Champion, as well as Jorgelina Guzzi, who judged the World Championships in 2006. Nelson Celis and Yanina Fajar, partners in Tango Fire, together won the 1994 National Tango Competition.

All of the dancers have established careers performing regularly in the most respected theatres, salons and hotels of Buenos Aires.

Sarah Ingley can be reached at scene@gvillesun.com.

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