Since 1990, Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” an entertaining evening of South American music and dance, has been seen by over seven million people in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and now I know why. Yes, I am new to “Forever Tango,” despite a prior version of the revue having played in San Francisco for almost two years before it moved to Broadway in 1997. (see culturevulture founder Arthur Lazere’s review http://Culturevulture.net/theater/forever-tango/). And now, about five years after its last San Francisco showing, it’s back once more, but just for a very short stay before it continues northward. I don’t think this show will ever come to an end.
“Forever Tango” is a two-act production featuring 12 superb tango dancers, vocals by Marcela Rios and a remarkable on-stage 10-piece orchestra anchored by the bandoneón – an Argentinian musical instrument that looks, but does not sound like, an accordion. The bandoneón is a member of the concertina family that provides a sensual, somber, dissonant sound — the perfect accompaniment to the tango. At first I was surprised that there were so many musical sections in between the dancing, but the orchestra was talented and professional.
In the company’s first dance, “El Suburbio,” we see the tango’s passionate origins in the bordellos of the Buenos Aires slums, as gangsters pay to dance and be with women whose submission is part of the dance, as well as their lives. The aggression, sexuality and intensity remain hallmarks of the tango. It’s a marvelous dance, requiring the dancers to use all parts of their bodies, from their solemn facial expressions, their necks, shoulders and backs, to their arms and legs.
There can be no false steps in the tango. The partners must be in perfect sync. The footsteps are intricate and range from minute, tight short taps, to glides from stage left to stage right. The women dancers wore gorgeously sparkly gowns, all with deep slits in the skirts that allowed them to use (and show off) their legs, while wearing shoes with stiletto heels.
Being an appreciator of dance, but not a viewer of the TV dance shows, the names Anna Trebunskaya and Dmitry Chaplin were unknown to me, but well-known to millions who enjoyed them on “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” and certainly celebrated by the “Forever Tango” audience. The duo performed two impressively supple and sensual numbers and participated in the finale. Their second act “Romance entre el Dolor y mi Alma” (“Romance between Pain and my Soul”) was a breathtaking pas de deux, which highlighted the pair’s fluidity and grace.
Another reason to see “Forever Tango” in San Francisco now is the opportunity to see the recently re-opened Herbst Theater at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, which is next to San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. The renovated theatre of approximately 900 seats is impressive with wood accents, comfortable seats, fine acoustics (the “Forever Tango” company uses microphones), and the stunning Frank Brangwyn murals originally painted for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
For tango novices like me, or for the sophisticates of the dance, “Forever Tango” is a thoroughly pleasurable evening of music and dance.
© Emily S. Mendel 2015 All Rights Reserved