If we stop to think for two seconds about what the term “scenic tango dance” suggests to us, the image that appears will probably be this: a dancer dressed in an impeccable suit – 1940s fashion – who flutters through the air, not without passion , to a skintight dancer in a dress with a deep side slit and dazzling glitter.
However, although the image evoked in the previous paragraph is the most insistent, this genre -which began to take shape with the first tango shows of the 1930s- changed over time. And not only changing but also breaking the previous models.
The brand new premiere of I am not -a show created collectively by Milagros Rolandelli, Lisandro Eberle and Ollantay Rojas- gives us the opportunity to review certain features and certain milestones of this very peculiar genre that is the stage tango dance and that I am not, somehow, comes to question. We’ll get back to him.
Ollantay Rojas himself, in an interview prior to the premiere, highlighted two dates that frame the apogee and the twilight, according to him, of stage tango. On the one hand, November 1983 with the premiere in a Parisian theater of the musical revue Argentinian tango by Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli. On the other, the death of the famous dancer and choreographer Juan Carlos Copes in January 2021.
The audacity of Juan Carlos Copes
Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves.
Juan Carlos Copes was, from his youth, a strong milonguero who frequented the dance halls of the northern neighborhoods of the city of Buenos Aires in its golden age. That was the environment that nurtured him: that of tango as a ballroom dance, which he would later take to the stage with a choreographic elaboration that did not exist until then.
In 1955, when he was only 24 years old and with the somewhat unconscious audacity of a perfect stranger, he proposed and convinced one of the most powerful theatrical entrepreneurs of the time, Carlos A. Petit, to put on a tango show imagined by him from a plot idea.
Thus, with this inaugural step, Copes began a long and successful path, highly influenced by Hollywood musical comedy, although with the language of tango, of course; and even more marked by the figure of his admired Gene Kelly.
Copes’ career, always at the side of his partner María Nieves, took on a great international flight in the United States and more particularly in New York, where the couple would return in 1985 with Argentinian tango. Claudio Segovia had hired them as dancers and Copes also as a choreographer.
The boom “Argentine Tango”
Argentine tango, the Broadway phenomenon of the ’90s.
To give an idea of what this show meant in New York -and that it had already been a devastating success in Europe- suffice it to say that the production was sold to a Broadway theater for $300,000, an insignificant amount considering that Argentinian tango grossed that sum per week from the time of the premiere.
Segovia and Orellano gave a very different slant to the tango-scenic genre: nothing, or practically no plot; a totally stripped scene; each couple with a different personality and a refined but sober exquisiteness in the wardrobe.
All these dancers -the average age was over 50 years old and one of them, Virulazo, was clinically obese- came from popular and milonguero origins. Segovia found the perfect term to describe the cast and the show: “reo-chic”.
The way of Plebs and Zotto
Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs at the door of the City Center theater in New York. Photo: Adriana Groisman.
The youngest couple Argentinian tango, Milena Plebs and Miguel Angel Zotto, who had just joined the cast on Broadway, left it after a while to find a personal path. In 1988 they created their own show, staged exclusively with the two of them and which forced them to dizzying costume changes, designed by Renata Schussheim.
In the now classic magazine format, they recreated the repertoire of music and dance styles from the time of the Cachafaz. Antonio Todaro, a former bricklayer who became a renowned tango master, and Pepito Avellanada, a great amateur expert in milonga rhythms, trained Zotto and Plebs in authentic ballroom dancing; this was the most important material of his creations, far removed from the erotic-acrobatic skills that were so much imposed in subsequent shows by other companies.
Plebs and Zotto preserved the purity of the origins of the genre and had great international success. The high point of his production was the extraordinary a night of tangopremiered in 1996 and shortly after was invited to the prestigious Lyon Dance Biennale, in France.
The plan of “Noestango”
I am not. Photo courtesy Ale Carmona.
Let us now return to the very cool I am not and its relationship with the currents that preceded it. For now, the three creators wrote a kind of manifesto:
“We will not wear heels, hair gel, or clothes from the 40s; we will not thrash women like floor rags; we will not look for the applause at the end of each theme; we will not break the ‘fourth wall’ to please the public; we will not pay homage to past glories. All of the above will have an exception if it appears as a problem.
So, the development of I am not It is proposed, to a large extent, as an exposition of different problems in the successive scenes: the woman “carries” the man in the dance and not the other way around as established by tradition; the typical tango hug is presented as a violent act; the woman manipulates or is manipulated; two men are intertwined in a close union, in which it is difficult to discern the limits between one and the other.
I am not. Photo courtesy Ale Carmona.
With five excellent musicians from the Revolutionary Quintet live and five no less excellent dancers –Milagros Rolandelli, Lisandro Eberle, David Palo, Marcela Vespasiano and Nicolás Minoliti- I am not It is placed much more in the field of research and experimentation than in that of choreographic elaboration.
But what he cannot, and perhaps does not want, is to dispense with the vocabulary of tango dancing: its characteristic forms, steps and language run through the work from beginning to end, although almost completely stripped of any sentimental or emotional connotations.
INFO: Tuesday in August and first Tuesday in September at 8:00 p.m. at El Galpón de Guevara, Guevara 326
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Reference from clarin www.clarin.com