Tango delivers on its sexy allure

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace show what the Tango is all about

Midnight Tango

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

TANGO is all about passion, smouldering Latino fire and, let's be honest, sex in a split skirt – well at least for the blokes in the audience.

And there is plenty of that in Midnight Tango, the show put together by two of the nation's leading Tango dancers Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, who are better known as stars of Strictly Come Dancing.

There is a certain something which sets the best beyond the merely good. Seb Coe had it at his peak as did Michael Johnson and Ed Moses, George Best had it in abundance while Lester Piggott and Nijinsky were just poetry in motion.

They make whatever they are doing look effortless, full of elegance and fluid movement, so easy in fact that it would seem anyone could do it.  Vincent and Flavia have been touched by that particular sprinkling of stardust and in a cast of ten quality dancers still stand out.

All tight, I know they did the choreography and they are not likely to give all the best bits to someone else, but they still have to have the class to carry it off and carry it off they do with ease.

The stage is a milonga, one of the informal dance clubs and bars, set sometime in the 1940s from the look of the period costumes. That was the golden age of Tango which had been born among the immigrants in the rundown harbour district of La Boca in Buenos Aires early last century.

The bar is opened by the owner and his wife setting in train their love hate relationship which provides interest and comedy throughout the show. As they set up the musicians drift in followed by the customers with the men not having much to impress the ladies but their sharp suits and dancing skills.

The story is simple. Vincent fancies Flavia but he has a rival and they clash on the dance floor including a very clever fight sequence.

Dancing the might away, the classy cast of  Midnight Tango

The stars though are undoubtedly Vincent and Flavia and you don't need to have seen Strictly, or know anything about ballroom dancing to know they are a class act.

They may not show the blistering foot speed or mind-blowingly complicated leg tangles of say Tanguera, one of The Argentine shows which have arrived in the current resurgence of interest in the Tango – this is more ballroom than grandstanding bar room – but one dance in the second half lifts the whole show to another level.

Flavia, as Sofia, realises that Vincent, as Pablo, is the man for her and their solo dance on an empty stage is a thing of sensuous beauty, tender and balletic.

Through the story of the rival dancers though runs another love story, the tale of Carlos and Rosa, the elderly couple running the bar played by veteran actors Teddy Kempner and Tricia Deighton.

A memorable moment from the first half comes when Carlos wheels out an old record player in his empty bar to play a song that means something to him. As he shuffles through the steps alone at the other side of the stage a couple, himself and Rosa long ago, dance the same steps with a passion that has got lost along the way running the bar and, full of memories, Carlos sets out to win Rosa back which he manages with a rose ad some aplomb.

Driving the show is the band, Tango Siempre with singer Martin Alvardo, one of the best Tango bands in the country.

Apparently Tango is one of the few dances that does not rely on drums for a rhythm and a tango orchestra, orquesta típica, so I am told,  consists of a piano, a violin, a bass and a bandoneón. This is a sort of big concertina which arrived in Argentina from Germany where it had been invented originally as an instrument for religious music.

Although there was a drummer, who also produced a fine solo and shelves and bottles in the bar, the music in the main stuck to the traditional instruments and sound of Tango.

With the fabulous period costumes, superb set by Morgan Large and dancing of the highest order, this is a show where time just flies by. The music plays on until 28-05-11.

Roger Clarke

 

Meanwhile, from our man in the fedora . . .

****

OOZING with sexual chemistry, this thrilling dance show is strictly hot and a visual delight.

Created by Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, stars of the hit BBC television series Strictly Come Dancing, Midnight Tango is set in a late night bar in downtown Buenos Aires where men need skill in their feet to win girls who are in short supply.

The Argentinian government advertised in Europe for people to build the country, but as the immigrants poured in they were nearly all men, and if the newcomers wanted to impress the ladies they had to learn to tango.

The show mirrors that situation, with its excitement, joy, passion and jealousy, and Simone and the gorgeous Cacace lead the team of four other couples in a series of thrilling dances. If there's a criticism of the show it is that in the first act the action is a shade repetitive.

But after the interval there are several steamy dances after Simone clashes with another man who becomes his rival for Flavia's attentions. A cleverly choreographed fight scene brings that  little matter to a head.

Later Flavia, having left the bar in a huff, returns after closing time for a red-hot tango with Vincent which drew gasps and cheers from the audience. At one point Flavia even plays the violin in a neat duet with band member Ros Stephen.

Good comedy, too, from Teddy Kempner and Tricia Deighton, playing Carlos and Rosa, the couple running the bar.

Directed by Karen Bruce and featuring the Tango Siempre band with vocalist Martin Alvarado, Midnight Tango dances on to 28.05.11

Paul Marston 

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