REVIEW / DANCE
Esplanade Concert Hall/Last Friday
As if Argentine tango wasn't dramatic enough already.
Tango Legends, spearheaded by award-winning dance duo Mariela Maldonado and Pablo Sosa, decided to throw a live band, a grand piano, a couple of singers, 14 dancers and a smoke machine into the mix, along with a hefty measure of theatrics.
Artistic directors Maldonado and Sosa endeavoured to showcase Argentine tango's appeal through variety: There are conventional tango duets as well as group numbers, and variations of style in the pieces performed, including a softer, more romantic dance with a scarf involving ballet-esque entrechats, fish dives and arabesques, a counterpoint to the sensuality and hot-bloodedness people usually associate with Argentine tango.
The dancing in the first act was interspersed with pieces framed with basic narratives and benign choreography. These filler vignettes gave the cast a chance to interact with one another and allowed the dancers to catch their breath. A good number of these involved men flirting outrageously while the women pouted.
Despite all these bells and whistles, the dancers looked most comfortable - and indeed were at their best - when performing the tango duets which largely formed the second act. The close-bodied sensuality of Argentine tango was put on full display with crisp footwork. The dancers twisted and wrapped themselves around their partners in a series of rapid movements that left no room for error, with acrobatic lifts and catches further upping the ante.
Maldonado and Sosa were the standout partnership of the night, making a strong statement that in performing arts, experience counts for everything.
With only a half-filled theatre before them, the dancers lacked the enthusiastic crowd to draw energy from. Some of the performances seemed rather muted, lacking that high-adrenaline ferocity that is required to truly make these dances compelling.
But whether it was a pursing of the lips and a saucy lift of an eyebrow from Maldonado amid a sea of stoic-looking dancers in a group number or the flash of a cheeky grin from Sosa, the pair put on a fine display of showmanship. They turned out a roaring crowd-pleaser of a duet in the second act that got the audience going and perked up the rest of the cast.
A shame then that theirs was the penultimate number. It drove home the point that whether due to issue of accessibility or awareness, Friday night spent at the theatre isn't the activity of choice for most locals.