The milonga, the main pretext for “Social Tango”

Revol – Dance Magazine – August 19 2013


By María José Lavandera

Directed and choreographed by Agustina Videla, and with photographic and video productions by Nora Lezano, “Social Tango” is described as “a tango show dedicated to the transformation dance brings about in people”. And while we can join the show’s creators in stating that tango transforms those who dance it, we can also say that – through the pleasure it evokes – this show transforms those who go to see it.

For this is a beautiful audiovisual experience in the broadest sense, which attracts theater-goers from different spheres – photography, dance and cinematic documentary – and provides an exquisite glimpse of a world of fascination with movement and the personal metamorphosis it can produce.
The main setting is the milonga: the dancehall space is constructed on the basis of two different moments in time, which nonetheless coincide in the shared concept of a joining together. On the one hand, three short films relate the present-day experiences of a group of inhabitants of Buenos Aires of different ages, nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds, who have found in tango a space of socialization and enjoyment, which has brought about a positive change in their lives. At the same time, these shorts serve as the framework for a candid love story that unfolds on stage …

Leonardo Pankow and Guadalupe Ponzelli, the couple that star in the love story in “Social Tango”. Photo: Diana Russo.

The show kicks off with “Buenos Aires”, the first audiovisual offering. Shot at all times in poetic black and white, the milongueros tell their stories. The city reveals itself among traffic lights and parks, smiles and autumn winds. It is a fresco that captures the imperfect beauty of everyday environments. “Routine” and “Social Tango”, which ends by providing a present-day testimony of a milonga and its codes, complete the narrative intention: tango revitalizes lives, brings more and better company, heals wounds and keeps suffering at bay. The shorts mark out the rhythm of the show: they set up the space ready for the dancers to make their entrance on stage. We find ourselves in a milonga from yesteryear – the 1950s perhaps – where young people arrange to meet up and seduce one another.
The joy encountered by a series of couples brought together by the dance is gradually interwoven with the story of a young man who discovers tango through a woman he falls in love with and, as a counterpoint to dance as a social experience, the abstract representation, via contemporary choreographic elements, of a somewhat solitary, repetitive and painful existence in Buenos Aires. The dancing, in turn, oscillates in a perfect balance between a slow and romantic 2/4 time, almost entirely walked, and a brillant stylized tango, with complex figures and full lifts, which are always greeted with warm applause from the audience.

The costumes by Renata Schussheim, a mixture of vitality and sensuality. Photo: Oscar Pereiro.

Tango is thus presented as a cultural expression of colorful and vivacious vitality, through a story that portrays it as a pocket of pleasure, happiness and defiance within people’s day-to-day routine, a moment of life in the midst of a timid gray city.
The delicious costumes created by the great Renata Schussheim – based mainly on a series of colorful dresses with full skirts and sensual open backs – complete each scene in a particularly attractive manner. Similarly, the lighting design, by Marcelo Cuervo, also plays an important role in creating the atmosphere and texture of each moment.

“Shall we dance…” The girls and boys enjoy themselves at the milonga …. Photo: Oscar Pereiro.
A special mention should be made of the wonderful acting performance given by Leo Pankow, as the timorous protagonist of the love story that runs through the work, and by his beautiful partner, Guadalupe Ponzelli. Nevertheless, with impeccable technical skill and a large dose of charisma, each one of the fourteen members of the cast helps to make this a marvelous event, which is a sheer delight.
The experience closes with a moving exhibition of photos of the milongueros that are paid tribute to in “Social Tango”, those who honor life through the dance, in the Photographic Space of the Teatro de la Ribera. The author, Nora Lezano, offers up a series of portraits on a white background taken in a small studio set up in the milonga “Cachirulo”. The characters are thus made to stand out, they are thrown into relief and, without realizing it, they give their bodies up to tango.
Perhaps it is not so sad and melancholy after all …


REVOL is a new concept in journalism on the art of dance in Latin America: it is an online initiative, with professional and in-depth information, a publication with a large number of readers.

The journalist:
Holding a degree in Communication from the University of Buenos Aires, I work for the newspaper La Nación and for various online and regional media, as well as radio programs such as “El Explorador Cultural” (Radio Splendid), presenting a column on cinema. I am currently completing a specialization in Communication and Cultural Management at FLACSO.