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Tango: Celebrating an Art Form in Music and Dance, a Review

By John Thomas

Tango isn’t pretty. Born and nurtured in Buenos Aires, tango is fierce, raw, achingly poignant, passionate, angry, tender, nostalgic, harshly real, astonishing, and ultimately triumphant. Tango exists for the survivors of the intense and sometimes surreal human existence in a world that is complex, full of ghosts and memories, darkness and light, and always, in its way, beautiful.

The performers of the “Tango” event at Bellas Artes celebrated this kaleidoscopic art form in the best ways possible with an essential interrelated tapestry of full throttle musicianship, powerful and poetic singing, breathtaking dance, and fearless theater that, by the end of the second act, became a cinematic montage of life and death, and resurrection.

After Serguey Kossiak’s stunning virtuoso violin performance of the perennially popular song “Jalousie,” singer Alicia Rappoport strode onto the stage and immediately established a level of performance that demanded our full attention and immersion into the hyperreal world of tango. Her performance of “Malena” awoke the phenomenal dancers Angeles Carrión and Diego Pagaza from their frozen seated positions on opposite sides of the stage; their brutal movements perfectly calibrated Rappoport’s stark and knowing rendition of a woman whose legendary singing of the tango is fueled by past pain. Carrión’s and Pagaza’s explosive performance of the instrumental “De apile” moved the energy into new heights for performers and audience. The second act delved passionately into the world of Astor Piazzolla, Argentina’s creator of “the new tango.” Throughout this section, stage director Joseph McClain deftly shifted the theatrical cabaret atmosphere to virtual cinema with powerful results. Mariano Dugatkin’s dreamlike bandoneón solo “La casita de mis viejos cobián” was followed by Rappoport’s return to the stage, face lightly veiled and suitcase in hand, in “Siempre se vuelve a Buenos Aires” she conveyed the infusion of that melancholy and captivating city, full of love and death, in the souls of its residents. The haunting “Canción de las venusinas” with its gentle denouement between Rappaport and Carrión was compelling in its serenity.

In “Oblivion,” Rappoport, Pagaza, and Carrión tragically depicted the loss of memory and will. “Adiós Nonino” was simply epic in length and its perfect combination of all the performers’ talents. The penultimate song, “Balada para mi muerte,” refused to be ignored; death comes for all of us, and for the lucky ones it comes, as memories float away, at dawn. Indeed, there is no end. Rappoport’s final tour de force, “Preludio para el año 3001” promised rebirth in all the myriad sacred and profane parts of Buenos Aires. Standing on a chair on top of a trunk, her arms flung wide like Cristo Redentor on top of the mountain of another incomprehensible city, Rappoport triumphantly chanted “¡Renaceré! ¡Renaceré!” As her outstretched arms embraced both her world and our world, we too believed that we can and will be reborn to love and to live in this dysfunctional yet perfect world.

John Thomas is a pianist and composer who recently performed with Mauro Ledesma in their duo piano concert “America from North to South” at Teatro Ángela Peralta.


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