A sensuous treat for the senses

a pair f dancers from Milona 

A dramatic lift before a virtual audience of images and cutouts

M¡longa

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

IF sex was a dance it would surely be the tango.

There are other forms of dance that are more beautiful, more elegant, more romantic or tender, while some modern dance routines seem to taka picture of two dancers n Milongae inspiration from the soft porn end of musical expression but when it comes to sensuous and smouldering passion, raw emotion, you can’t beat tango.

It is courtship dance and mating ritual rolled into one – foreplay in footsteps.

Tango is the soul of Argentina so you would hardly expect  a Belgian-Moroccan choreographer in the shape of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to be the man behind M¡longa, ostensibly a form of the dance, which as is Argentinian as the Casa Rosada.

Passion and drama translated into the language of dance

 

But perhaps Cherkaoui brings fresh eyes to a dance form which courses through every Argentinian vein.

And if you have Belgian-Moroccan choreographer, why not two Polish composers in Szymon Brzóska adb Olga Wojciechowska who contributed tango pieces to the score along with celebrated musical director and pianist Fernando Marzan who, finally, comes from Argentina.

The score also includes three pieces by legendary tango composer Astor Piazzolla, unintentionally linking the opening and closing of the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014.

The festival was launched in April with the premiere of a new work, Quatraine, from Birmingham Royal Ballet with music from Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and his music returns for the final theatre performance of IDFB.

Cherkaoui brings in five pairs of world class tango dancers and then, just as he was an outsider embracing the spirit of Argentina, he also includes two contemporary dancers, Frenchman, Damien Fournier and Silvina Cortés, who hails from Buenos Aires but has been a dancer and teacher of contemporary dance and ballet in the USA and France for almost 20 years.

The pair are not tango exponents, but their expertise in dance brought a different approach, a new look at the age old steps. In the programme notes Cherkaoui says: “Tango is all about the embrace; the connection between two dancers and the tacit conversation carried out by their bodies moving across the floor.”

His contemporary dancers spoke their tango with an appealing accent.

Dance, brilliant as it was, was only part of the show though. Eugenio Szwarcer’s set give us a stylised representation of a Buenos Aires dance hall, a black empty stage sometimes with and sometimes without chairs around the edges, with the excellent five piece orquesta típica, under Marzan, at the side.

It was effective in itself but his video and visual work was quite stunning. We had cut outs of the dancers which went from full colour to silhouette in an instant or had shadows shrinking from the outlines as each character’s cut-out disappeared into the gloom.

An embrace in the heat of dance oblivious to the crowd of images behind

 

We had multiple images of a pair of dancers on huge video screens behind them to create a corps de tango from one pair. There was a ballet of multiple images on a huge front cloth screen filling the entire Hippodrome stage moved around by a dancer like those letters in a word square we had as kids.

Then there were the travelling images of towns and cities zooming by with dancers in front appearing more urgent than they were and, dancing in a small area, appearing the travel miles.

If tango is really a conversation between bodies than M¡longa is a piece that talks to the senses.

There is no story, no real purpose, just a celebration of dance and tango and it is fascinating to watch. Apart from the dances by couples there are also trios of men and women with some spectacular moves, one man and two women, two women and a man five couples in unison or conflict and any combination inbetween.

And as for the steps of the couples – wear shin pads and a cricketer’s box if you try any at home. The speed of footwork, movement and dance, the locking and flicks between legs and the way one body twines around another like a silk scarf is just a mesmerising spectacle and a classy highlight to IDFB’s final weekend. To 24-05-14

Roger Clarke

IDBF

23-05-14 

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