Tango Fire is a show that needs very little introduction, particularly seeing as it is returning to London for its seventh season. Led by the legendary German Cornejo, it takes us through the history of Argentinian Tango, from classical pieces to more contemporary acrobatic fusions. Accompanied by a four piece band on piano, double bass, violin and bandoneon, this is an authentically Argentinian night of extraordinary dance. Strictly Come Dancing this is not – this is dance for grown-ups.
The skill of the dancers cannot be overstated, with each individual’s biography reading like a checklist of major competitions and venues around the globe. Many have been dancing in the same couples for years, and this shows in the synergy created onstage, the two dancers of each couple becoming one elaborate unit. They move with a fluidity and precision that is breath-taking, lower limbs whipping in impossibly intricate choreography whilst upper bodies melt and fuse together. It is a gorgeous and sensual balance of contrasts, smooth and sharp, slow and quick, technical perfection working together with a confidence and character that makes the most detailed choreography feel deliciously spontaneous. Tango is renowned as the sexiest dance form, and this show delivers a raw, charged eroticism, each couple bringing a subtly different colour to the palate of the show, accompanied throughout by the gorgeous four-piece band.
The show exists in two very distinct halves, the first looking at more traditional tango and set in a town square, indicated with benches and lamp-posts. Although there are many spectacular moments in this first half, at times we seem to drift into the territory of Jets and Sharks, with a light sketching of “storyline” and a very pedestrian opening to the show setting the bar oddly low. There is also some faffing about with props, parasols and fans being the key culprits, which is an infuriating and unnecessary addition to the choreography.
The second half is where most of the fireworks are kept, with some of the most extraordinary duets, particularly that between Cornejo and his partner Gisela Galeassi, bringing audience members to their feet in appreciation. As a general rule, the group dances lack the punch of the individually choreographed pieces, to such an extent that the end of the show rather took the audience by surprise: there was an excruciating delay on applause which didn’t do justice to the absolute majesty of the content of this show. Some tweaks to the direction, perhaps resulting in a slight reduction in the running time, would have helped to keep the tension singing and avoided these unfortunate dips.
Although undoubtably best served with fernet, cigarettes and the heat of the day seeping up from the streets, Tango Fire is a heady enough mixture in itself that the dreariest of February nights will feel like midsummer in Buenos Aires.