Robert Tanitch reviews Tango Fire at Peacock Theatre, London WC2A
Everybody knows that it takes two to tango, but nobody is certain whether the word tango derives from the sound of the beaten drum (tan-go) or from the Latin word tangere (to touch).
The Tango, danced cheek to cheek and crotch to crotch, to a halting and relentlessly repeated hypnotic rhythm, had its origins in the brothels of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century, when it was danced by pimps and prostitutes whilst waiting for customers.
The tango, carnal and fatalistic, was almost invariably obscene; a sadomasochistic battle of the sexes, a one-to-one combat, which always ended with the total submission of the woman, who, throwing her head and bent body backwards, waited to be ravished on the dance floor.
The women, in their slit skirts, twist, turn, cling, hug, caress and curl their long legs round the bodies of their partners. It is fascinating to watch the criss-crossing, interweaving legs and the fast and highly dangerous kicks between the dancer’s legs. One mistimed murderous quick kick and shins could be lacerated; and not only shins.
I arrive at the theatre expecting brylcreamed hair, double-breasted suits, fedoras, white scarves, patent shoes, spats, split skirts, plunging backlines, fish-net stockings, feather boas and high-heeled stiletto shoes. I expect gangsters and their molls. I am surprised how clean and respectable the show is.
The footwork continues to dazzle. So do the women’s long legs. The back kicks which reach their heads constantly amaze. But where is the raw passion?
Tango Fire does not blaze. It does not smoulder. It is not provocative. It is not obscene. Everybody is very nice. Where are the macho arrogance, sarcasm and mutual contempt, so synonymous with tango?
There are six couples and four musicians. The talented company is headed by international World Tango Champion German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi.
Cornejo has also created the show. Tango can be very repetitive and he has made a genuine effort to bring a greater variety to the performance. He has choreographed all group dances. The solo dances are choreographed by the individual couples.
Tango Fire is much more balletic in its ensembles and the groupings and the tableaux. It is also much, much more acrobatic. The acrobatics are its special feature. The women are thrown about in the most alarming jaw-dropping circus manner.