Monday, 15 September 2008

Sex on legs - not the last Tango in Paris

I can't dance - well not really. All right so I can do a pretty good arm-flailing impression of a latter-day Travolta when the light's right, and the mirror ball is deflecting attention in the opposite direction. But I ain't really got rythmn and there's no tripping the light fantastic on the dance floor for me.

As for the mysteries of the Cha Cha, the Fox Trot or the Salsa - well when it comes to feet, my two aren't left. They're simply on back to front. Thank goodness there's no Little Person's version of "Dancing with Stars" here in France, because I wouldn't even make it to the auditions.

But one thing I do recognise is Hot Stuff on the dance floor. And that's exactly what Parisian audiences are being treated to at the moment with the exhaustingly energetic but sublimely sensual "Tanguera" playing at the Théâtre du Châtelet.

It's a musical but told in dance - the Tango of course.

And what makes it especially compelling and innovative is how it manages to tell the history of its own roots by going back to its beginnings and at the same time combining it with a love story typical for any era, but that was very much part of the milieu in which the Tango was born.

Set in the poor quarter of Boca in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century, Tanguera tracks the tale of Giselle, a young woman from France, who has recently arrived as part of the wave of immigration from Europe to South America at the time.

She cannot find legitimate work and gets drawn into prostitution under the "comforting arm" of Gaudencio, a gangster, pimp and drug trafficker.

From prostitution she moves into the seedy world of cabaret, controlled by Gaudencio, and discovers the Tango. It becomes her drug almost, and she in return becomes a star of the scene, quickly attracting the attention of the virtuous Lorenzo, a docker.

He of course at the end finally takes his courage in his hands and challenges Gaudencio to a fight, where the two men slug it out in mortal combat - all for the love of a woman.

Directed by Omar Pacheco, the choreography of Mora Godoy is phenonmenal. and after 18 months of playing to packed houses back in Argentina, it has been brought to Paris as part of an international tour.

Exceptionally for the performances in the French capital, there's a live orchestra playing alongside the dancers, which only adds to the authenticity of the programme - no mean feat given that the sumptuous setting of the Théâtre du Châtelet is a world removed from the poorer districts of late 19th century Buenos Aires.

The 20 couples who keep the action flowing are seductive and sensual without being vulgar. There's a vibrancy, energy and speed that leaves the audience feeling just as exhausted as surely the dancers must be by the end.

And as the national daily Le Monde said in its review, the dancing shows how "a heavy tale can be made easily digestible."

"Tanguera" is just under two hours of electrifying moves and wonderful music that left even the most heavy-footed member of the public panting for more and almost ready to throw all caution to the wind and run on to the stage to be part of the performance.

It draws you in, keeps you transfixed and simply put it's sex on legs. Not to be missed if you're planning a visit to the French capital.

It's playing at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris until September 21.

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