The tango of transformation


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The choreographer Agustina Videla and the photographer Nora Lezano in a show about the social dance


Social Tango. Direction: Agustina Videla and Nora Lezano. Drama coaching: Carolina Tejeda. Choreography: A. Videla. Wardrobe: Renata Schussheim. Lighting: Marcelo Cuervo. Performers: Eva Icikson, Rodrigo Arze, Sebastián Fernández, Lucía Ohyama, John Galindo, Guadalupe Ponzelli, Cristian García, Giselda Seewald, Edwin Olarte, Josefina Stellato, Leonardo Pankow, Violeta Videla, Horacio Herrera, Constanza Vieyto. At the Teatro de la Ribera

Much has been said about tango dance as a means of artistic expression, as a trigger for social encounter, and even about the health benefits enjoyed by those who practice it. In contrast, it is the transformative power it has over people that is the trigger for this show, created by a classically and modern-trained dancer and a photographer linked to the world of rock music.

An unfettered spirit runs throughout Social Tango, even when what is shown is a partnered dance, largely enclosed in an embrace, with the feet kept close to the floor and with carefully measured choreographic outbursts. The story is framed by a continuous back-and-forth between what is happening on stage and a screen projecting images of enormous beauty, in which the milonga, that microcosm gestated to the rhythm of the great orchestras, is presented as a territory to be discovered.

The narrative thread is almost an excuse to address a deeper issue. Beguiled by a charming lady (Guadalupe Ponzelli), an ordinary man (Leonardo Pankow) tries to decipher the rudiments of tango dancing in an attempt to get close to her. The story takes him from the frustration of someone unfamiliar with the established codes to a thirst for knowledge and the discovery of a world apart, which emerges on the edges of the polished wood dance floor.


Tango – and not the history of the tango genre – penetrates the fiber of his being and transforms him. So much so that even though the romance ends badly, the man will never be the same following this revelation.

The images offered up by Nora Lezano, in both the short films projected on stage as well as the photographic exhibition presented in the theater foyer, lend substance and a human face to those inhabitants of the night who exercise the talent for improvisation in every tanda or dance set. At the same time, Lezano casts her curious gaze over Buenos Aires, the cradle of that spontaneous art, producing a series of images of the city that depict it not just as melancholic and voracious, as we all know, but also as downtrodden and changing.

Agustina Videla’s choreography does not stick slavishly to the canons of salon tango, which is not to say that her designs compromise its characteristic stamp. The pattern of displacements made by the couples reveals a meticulous craftsmanship as do the figures they trace out on the floor. The director succeeds in making the seven pairs of dancers function as a troop, even though they aren’t, with a synchronicity and a sense of teamwork that transcends the stage.

The soundtrack, like the entire show, has cleverly drawn on a variety of different elements. It brings together the great orchestras and voices of the golden age of tango with the young blood of Ariel Ardit and El Arranque, Esteban Morgado, and even El Cigala himself. The costumes by Renata Schussheim work in harmony with the vivacity of the production, providing color and movement. The performances of Leonardo Pankow, Sebastián Fernández and Giselda Seewald stand out among a cast that is excellent across the board.

Daniel Sousa

The milonga, its inhabitants and its codes in this groundbreaking show