Robert Tanitch reviews Milonga at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London EC1
The tango began in the bars and brothels in Buenos Aires in the 1870s. The most likely place to find the tango today is on the commercial international stage.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoiu’s Milonga returns to the UK, having been round the world to 32 cities across 15 countries and 4 continents.
Everybody knows it takes two to tango; but with Cherkaoiu, the Belgian-Moroccan choreographer, it often takes three: two men and a woman. Sometimes, and even more daringly, there are just three men who do incredible acrobatic things within the dance.
The band is on the side of the stage. There are twelve dancers: 10 professional tango dancers and two contemporary dancers.
Cherkaoui likes to have the dancers all on stage together, circling each other, constantly swapping partners at speed, doing their own things and coming together for a tableau.
The dance vocabulary is drawn from the tango clichés but he incorporates them into his own choreography. He has got rid of the pimps and fedoras and given the tango a contemporary perspective and the results aren’t always successful.
Milonga opens with an unexpected image of two dancers dancing back to back (and very sexy, it is too) which immediately raises expectations. It ends with an absolutely stunning virtuoso duet by German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi which gives the audience exactly what they want and expect to see in a tango show: the incredibly fast moving legs and those dazzling, lethal and fast kicks between the legs
There is much talk of relationships by Cherkaoui in an essay he has written for the programme. But the relationships and the individual items too often do not have the impact audiences have seen in more traditional productions; and I am thinking of such shows as Tango Argentina, Forever Tango and Tango por Dos.