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Sadler's Wells' big summer show is this cheesy but technically stunning tango musical
This Argentine tango musical was first brought to London in 2010 – and it is still being energetically peformed by an almost 30-strong cast of dancers and musicians.
The plot of this narrative dance show ticks all the cliché boxes: the sweet-natured dockworker Lorenzo is smitten as soon as he sees Giselle, a young French woman, step off the boat in Buenos Aires. However, the pantomime-baddie gangsters who lured her over to Argentina whisk her off to earn her keep through prostitution and dancing tango in their sleazy club – meaning Lorenzo has to fight to save his true love. Nuanced it is not.
What’s impressive, though, is how the choreographer Mora Godoy (a tango legend in Argentina) has used the dance form to drive the piece, and reveals its breadth. During the opening scene on the docks, the hardworking ensemble show off snatches of the other dances that were fused to form tango, then Lorenzo (Esteban Domenichini) dances with three other workers in a joyful, rousingly robust display of all-male tango.
A fiesta scene lets us see the faster, more playful ‘milonga’ and ‘vals’ forms of the dance being performed. Then, as we head to the nightclub, it all becomes slinkier and more acrobatic, with Giselle (former world champion Melody Celatti) being tossed around like a ragdoll – and the smoulderingly sensual Carla Chimento (playing the madam) sending sparks flying in her duets with the chief baddie, Dabel Zanabria. As the tensions rise, a combative facet of tango is highlighted, with knife-thrust kicks and aggressive spins and jumps.
The dancing is punctuated by songs performed (in Spanish, no surtitles) by the tango singer/actress Marianella, and the 80 minutes whizz along in a blur of ganchos, volcadas, boleos and sacadas, set to a soundtrack of tango’s greatest hits. It’s polished entertainment – even the encore is tightly drilled. But it should still get you in the mood to dust off your dancing shoes.