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Flash Review 3, 10-27:
TangoMujer Seduces Philly
By Anne-Marie Mulgrew
Coyright 2000 Anne-Marie Mulgrew
PHILADELPHIA -- TangoMujer,
in its first U.S. tour, made its local debut Tuesday at the Annenberg
Center's Harold Prince Theater, opening Dance Celebration's Next
Move series. The program featured a premiere, "Vice Verso," and
seven short dances from repertory dating from 1982 to 1999. Tango
lovers of all ages and persuasions packed the house, ready for anything
(and they got it) from this gender-bending five-women international
troupe. What unfolded was a delightful, entertaining evening that
informed, seduced and questioned what is tango. Is it a dance of
temptation, lust, power, wit, surprise, humor, individuality? Is
it a language, a state of mind?
TangoMujer (mujer is
woman in Spanish) is a collaborative company. The artistic directors
and dancers, trained in modern dance and tango, are Fabienne Bongard,
Angelika Fischer, Rebecca Shulman, Valeria Solomonoff and Brigitta
Winkler. The seven short dances seem ed to psyche the audience up
or the compelling thirty-minute dance theater production, "Vice
Verso." Here are a few examples showing the range of the smaller
In "La Yumba," on a dimly
lit stage, two dancers in suits (Winkler and Fischer) tango to music
by the Osvaldo Pugliese Orchestra. The scene is reminiscent of an
old social haunt perhaps similar to a place in Argentina where men
danced with men. In one revealing moment, Winkler takes off her
hat exposing waist-length silken blond hair. Winkler and Fischer,
partners for over twenty years, move as one body, wonderfully connected.
It appears that they are both master followers and leaders, taking
the audience along for a seamless ride.
"Malena" opens with a
contemplative solo by the slim Shulman in a short red dress, barefooted.
Her introspective fragile quality is interrupted by Winkler's entrance
(barefooted in a blue dress). They partner, mixing traditional tango
elements and modern dance. There are drops to the floor, spirals,
arched backs, attitude legs that wrap and runs in this charming
semi-narrative dance about friendship.
and athletic, native Argentinean Valeria Solomonoff tangos with
her own shadow in "Maria." Using light and the back black wall as
support, Solomonoff handstands, rolls, and pushes against the wall,
creating fantastic shapes and balances. The shadow's reflection
at times is incongruous. The reflection is not always what you are
seeing live. Could this be an analogy for how some perceive the
"La Ronda" (to the music
"Lagrimas y Sonrisas," performed by the Rodolfo Biagi Orchestra)
is a humorous skit about waiting and dancing. Fischer is holding
a silver tray, watching, lurking as others dance. There are partner
exchanges, tray exchanges and wonderful ensemble tango/folk dancing
moments when all five move around a tray. I enjoyed this nontraditional
"take" on the tray as one partner and the ensemble the other. Hence,
it takes "two to tango." Also performed were radically different
works on relationships -- "The Letter," "Emancipation," and "Mala
The audience returns
after intermission to find a piano and small table on the stage
as if in a cafe or bar. "Vice Verso" is a narrative-driven tango
dance-theater work for a cast of five characters, a singer (Isabel
de Sebastian), original music by Pablo Aslan played by a master
bandoneon player, Hector "Tito" Castro, and acclaimed pianist Maurizio
Najt. Superbly directed by Mark Hammond, costumes are by Brenda
Rousseau with lighting by Clifton Taylor.
The story is about a
big shot womanizer and gambler, Atilio, performed by the ever-so-convincing
Fischer; Pedro, his best friend (Winkler); Tita, an old flame of
Atilio's who is now a good friend (de Sebastian); Nina, the new
girl in town (Solomonoff); Aldo, Nina's ex-lover (Shulman), and
Lola, a lottery ticket seller (Bongard). It's about flirtation and
betrayal in seven compelling scenes. There is very little text.
The story is told through unbelievable dancing, acting, singing
"Vice Versa" opens with
the wonderful sound of the band playing and de Sebastian singing.
Lola makes a fabulous entrance (a repeating motif) on a scooter
with sunglasses. Atilio and Pedro are playing cards and the new
girl, Nina, enters. This is the beginning of a hot tumultuous romance.
There is a divine dance where Atilio woos Nina with numerous three-foot
strings of pearls. Aslan's music now has hints of a middle eastern
flavor as Nina places a string on her belly. Nina, young, vulnerable,
easily impressed, yet very elegant is taller than the tough, cock-sure,
always gets what he wants Atilio. Nina gets a letter from her old
boyfriend Aldo and remembers the good times they had.Aldo returns
to find Nina. A brawl ensues in modern tango style. Aldo is thrown
out. Left alone, he dances a dance of rejection, solitude, and depression.
He stumbles, falls, crawls, writhes in the air, is pathetic and
very sad. (After seeing Shulman in the red dress, this character
transformation is astonishing.) Somehow, Nina finds Aldo. They dance
a dance of lost affection. Enter Atilio (who during Nina's departure
flirts with Lola, a hot voluptuous redhead). Nina decides to leave
with Atilio only to have Atilio dump her. Nina is left alone. Pedro,
Atilio's good friend discovers how mean Atilio really is and leaves
him. Meanwhile, Lola enters and Atilio tries to flirt, but by now
but Lola realizes he's a jerk and is totally not interested.
Intermittently, de Sebastian
sings, with many stunning costume changes, looking remarkably chic
with her faux auburn-red hair, green sequinned jacket and high heels.
Hammond should be applauded
for his clear direction and pacing as should be the dancers for
their choreographic contributions.
What amazed me about
this evening was how the dancers embodied their characters -- freely
moving across gender lines -- and how vast the language of tango
is, especially when dosed with contemporary dance vocabulary.
in Philly tonight and tomorrow night.
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