As professional dancers, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace became famous during their seven years on Strictly Come Dancing, during which they became especially known for their Argentine tango performances. Since leaving the BBC series they have toured two successful dance shows, Midnight Tango and Dance ’Til Dawn. Now they have reunited with those shows’ choreographer, Karen Bruce, for their third and final theatrical touring production, The Last Tango.
The couple took a break from their exhausting rehearsal schedule to talk to Scott Matthewman about their new show, and their reasons for making it their last one.
Why have you decided to make The Last Tango your final theatrical show?
Vincent: I’m so tired!
Flavia: When we did Midnight Tango, that was our very first proper taste of theatre. We’re obviously not from a musical theatre background, and had no experience of being on stage like that. So Midnight Tango was our first experience of that and we kind of fell in love with it – with the whole story, creating a beginning, middle and end. Having other dancers on stage with us, the lighting, the world that you create.
And then we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to come back with Dance ’Til Dawn… we kind of always felt even when we did Midnight Tango that we would do a trilogy, for some reason. A box set of three shows. And Dance ’Til Dawn was great and kind of pushed the boundaries – more razzmatazz, more showbiz, a little bit more musical theatre.
We thought, well, we loved Midnight Tango so much that we wanted to come back with a little more of a tango feel, but still enabling us to show our other styles as well. But we always wanted to keep the story within the dance, because we’ve kind of got that now. We don’t want to go back to just dancing.
Vincent: We learned how to act. That’s something we’d never really done before. When we used to compete, we would do the rumba, which is the dance of love, and then you would go straight into a paso doble which is a bullfight. But here, at the beginning you have to get trained even to pick up a glass of water.
Flavia: We were told to walk towards the glass and Karen [Bruce] would say, “Just walk. Be normal.” I was like “I am normal, this is being normal [for a dancer].”
Vincent: “Stay still,” she would tell us. We couldn’t stay still. We had to find our own ways of dealing with it. And now I love it.
Flavia: We’re much more comfortable now with it. It’s taken us three shows. We didn’t think about it when we first started to put this together, but actually I think we probably have more acting in this than we have had in the previous two shows. There is very much a through line to follow. But yes, that’s why we kind of thought of it as a trilogy. We can’t do eight shows a week for ever and ever – because just as much as we love it to death, and we’re very, very lucky to be doing it, it’s very exhausting.
And we’ve been touring now for seven years. We’ve had breaks, but that’s a long time to be doing eight shows a week. But maybe we’ll have a break. Hopefully if this show does really well, it’d be great to have a break and be able to do another tour of the same show. But I think a fourth one would probably break us!
Vincent: We don’t want to push our luck. We have great fans that keep coming back. We’re so proud of that.
Is there anything that marks The Last Tango out from your previous shows?
Vincent: Every time we worry, “Is this show going to be as good?” And every time we improve ourselves. I think this show is going to be fabulous.
There’s so much heart in it. Just sitting down and talking about it, we were in tears. Then we do a little scene, the music comes up, and we’re in tears again – both from the fact that it’s going to be our last theatre show and from the story itself.
Flavia: And we have Teddy Kempner, our narrator, who’s been with us on all three shows. He’s kind of our lucky mascot. He’s so expressive, and the combination of him acting and telling the story, and the music choices that we have… Bring tissues, basically!
Vincent: Not all the time. There’s passionate moments, there’s happy moments, there’s funny moments.
Flavia: Yeah, some very funny, quirky moments too.
Vincent: We love being sad, in a way. Those are the best moments for us.
Flavia: We’re lucky enough we’ve kept the same family for all our shows. Obviously there’s us two and Teddy, and Karen, and we’ve been working with Adam [Siegel, the producer] now for all our shows, so we have the same producer, and we also have the same set designer, lighting team and costume people. Each time it’s been successful, so we don’t want to change that. Somehow we work, we don’t always all agree – but that’s a good thing, you can’t be right all the time.
But it’s worked twice already, so fingers crossed that we can make it work a third time.
Are your fans disappointed that this will be your last show of this type?
Flavia: Yeah, but we’re not disappearing.
Vincent: People used to be crying almost at the stage door, saying, “You weren’t on TV on Saturday night, you’ll be missed on Strictly.” We can’t be in two places at once. We just felt that this is what we do. We love dancing together, and we loved doing Strictly, which we did for seven years. But we wouldn’t see each other for five months while we were doing the show. There’d be the group numbers, but then after a couple of hours, we’d be off with our partners and you’re dancing with someone that’s not a professional dancer.
Flavia: But now we’ve got fans who are worried about us not performing on stage. So to them, it’s like it’s even more tragic. But we will obviously be doing lots of things. Who knows.
Vincent: We’re putting the suitcase away, not hanging up the shoes, if you know what I mean.
And we’ve got our private lives. I’ve just got married, I’ve got two little sausages… before when they were very little, it was just me saying, “Oh, I’m going to miss them,” so it was me dealing with myself. “Be strong, you’re doing this for you and for them as well, for the future.” But now they miss me, so that’s really hard for me to take every time.
When you started on Strictly and the Argentine tango was added to the show’s repertoire, it was a dance that was only attempted near the end of the run, and it was a big achievement to get as far as being able to perform it. Now it’s mixed in with all the other routines.
Vincent: I do understand that. We were the first couple to perform live Argentine tango on TV, I think, in this country at least. And I remember all my partners and all Flavia’s partners would say, “Oh I can’t wait to do the tango with you.” And I think ourselves and probably the producer felt sorry that most of the people, other than the top three, would never get to do the tango.
Flavia: Like you said, it has become more and more popular. Lots of people remember various dances, but for some reason the tango is something that kind of grabs you a bit more. So to put it in earlier gives you that sort of feeling earlier on in the series.
Vincent: You should come and see the tangos that we do on stage – the last one we are going to do is insane. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but it’s incredible. Every time we try to push ourselves. On Dance ’Til Dawn’s final tango, it took us so long to get through it we had to stop halfway through. I had to say to the guys, come back tomorrow and we’ll do the second half then, because we couldn’t finish it off. This time, this tango is actually the last tango because I’ll be dead after that.
To be honest, once we heard the music, the other dancers were saying no, it’s impossible. It is impossible.
Flavia: It’s almost unchoreographable. Is that a word?
The tango started as a very improvisational dance. How much of what you do in your tango segments is planned in advance and how much do you improvise?
Vincent: It’s all choreographed, but it’s all led by me. I have to make sure that Flavia looks good. We know the choreography, but I’m leading all the time. You can easily tell, and I’ve seen, so many tango shows where you can see exactly they’re moving their feet from here to there… you can tell the man’s not really leading.
Flavia: Even a choreographed piece should still be the man leads, the lady follows. It’s the same, actually, in ballroom and Latin. Both rôles are as difficult as each other – it’s very hard to lead, it’s very hard to follow. We spend years and years learning those skills, and in Tango it’s exactly the same.
The social side of Tango is a lot less choreographed, obviously. We spent a couple of years at the beginning when we first started, learning all the lead and follow, the basic figures, doing the milongas, dancing with different people… that’s the essence of tango. With our ballroom and Latin backgrounds, we were so used to choreography and to perfecting something as much as possible. We took that with us into the Argentine tango. But we wouldn’t be able to create the speed or the precision without the lead and follow. You have to find a blend of the two things.
Vincent: It’d be so much easier to just do strict choreography, to count and count out dance moves – but the following and leading, making two people become one, that’s the hardest thing. It’s very rare to see that. I’ve seen probably the best tango shows ever, and I can still see when it’s not led.
Flavia: The dancers in this show have been learning little bits of ballroom and Latin, tango and all sorts of different things, and it’s fascinating how the techniques are different. We struggle with the things that they do easily, all the solo dancing, the jumps and leaps – and then when we try and do one of our figures, they find it quite hard. So we’ve been kind of swapping, which is quite good.
You must have danced in so many different venues. What makes a theatre good for dance as opposed to other sorts of performance space?
Flavia: I think a theatre is perfect. The atmosphere that you have, it just intensifies everything. I love old theatres. We’ve also danced in concert halls, and they’re different, they’re a little more open, but a little bit colder. But when you stand on a stage, you’ve got the audience literally there. It’s amazing. It just gives you that buzz.
Vincent: To be honest, I never look at the audience until the very end as we do our bows. And I love that, because I’m living in that little world. That’s probably the thing I love most about theatre.
Flavia: But you can feel them at the same time. You can’t see them, but you can feed off their energy.
As you prepare to say goodbye to this type of show, is there anything that you will, or won’t, miss?
Flavia: I think I’ll probably miss everything about it, really. Performing on stage within a show has been a unique experience and we’re really privileged to have had the opportunity of doing three shows. So I think we’ll miss being on stage and performing within a story with such amazing talent. These guys who work on every show we do – we’ve got incredible talent.
Vincent: But we’ve done it. We’ve ticked that box. So let’s see what comes next. It will be lovely to have a new project.
And what would be your dream new project be?
Vincent: My dream would be to make a film. I think it’s about time there’s a proper tango film.
But even if we’re not involved, even if Brad and Angelina want to star – well, we can always teach them. Or I could just be the cleaner in the background. Just to be part of a new project. That would be lovely.
The Last Tango opens at the Aylesbury Waterside on September 17, and then tours until July 2016. For more details, go to www.thelasttangotour.co.uk