M¡longa, the music of tango, the place where it is danced, a tango event. This evening is dedicated to one of the most vital genres of dance, from its roots in Argentina to a more contemporary flair. With seventeen performers, including live music, Dance Consortium seek to provide Tango for the 21st Century.
No overarching narrative is present. Instead, performances are segmented, some bleeding into others. Tango is synonymous with passion, tonight both erotic and antagonistic. Less familiar though are elements of comedy and tragedy, which are carried off just as well as the passionate displays. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s direction and choreography are impeccable, blending traditional and innovative movements with simplistic staging and unique ideas.
The simple fact is that Dance Consortium haven’t just mastered movement, they’ve mastered the art of spectacle. From lighting, sound and visual designs there is more on offer than the performers themselves. At first, the unexpected use of video and projection distracts, drawing focus away but this soon settles. Hurtling through the streets of South America, the audience gets a real sense of not just the home of Tango but the history, food, cinema and culture behind this ever-evolving dance.
While no entire performance is flawless, three pieces display what can only be described as perfection. First is the trio of male performers, their interlocking precision is aimed, bullet-like into the ground. Despite the three men dancing together, it has a deep connection. Not one of them alone is in control. There is no masculine battle of supremacy, but instead, they move in perfect synchronisation as one.
A flag routine performed by two dancers in shadow is the triumph of the second act. With only the lights projected onto the flag illuminating the stage, the two never drop focus even as one twirls the Argentinian flag. As the segment ends, it is revealed that both dancers are again male. This contemporary form of ‘open-role’ Tango is ever present, removing the heteronormative form of Tango allowing female leads and same-sex partners.
Most striking of all though is the segment lead by Silvina Cortés. It’s complexity, speed and interpretation of emptiness are heartbreaking. At first, she intercepts a dancing duo, her body laced between the two without a sliver of light between them. Cortés and the partners switch, in an erotic display of three bodies entwined. Left alone, however, she is slowly surrounded by pairing couples, a labyrinth of chairs trapping her. Before her partner reveals himself, Cortés performs alone stretching and contorting her body against the sea of performers drowning her.
Live musicians, present on stage, fuel the intense connection this production has between its performers. M¡longa doesn’t simply make you want to dance; it makes you want to explore and live. It doesn’t just speak to the audiences’ eyes and ears, but its clever crafting allows for a more profound painting of life, loss, loneliness and love. The history and spirit of Argentine dance are here in the heart of Edinburgh – don’t miss M¡longa.
Runs until 14 June 2017 | Image: Contributed