TANGO TRIUMPHS AT HAM HALL
By: Hal de Becker
The Performing Arts Center’s Ham Hall on the campus of UNLV boasts not only easy access outside and good sight lines inside but also a lobby with warm ambience and cozy armchairs and couches.
PAC’s recent presentation of Tango Buenos Aires - Song of Eva Peron was something else the venue could be proud of. It was the most entertaining Tango show this reviewer has seen in a long time.
It wasn’t just the superb music and dancing or the captivating choreography and costumes that made the production so distinctive. It was the concept of the show itself.
Highlights from the life of legendary Eva Peron were presented through the language of Tango with artistic performances, imaginative choreography and creative integrity that retained the spirit of Argentina’s Tango heritage.
Eva’s early life and struggles, her romance with dictator Juan Peron and her eventual ascension to the position of Argentina’s First Lady were all alluded to. Even Peron’s despotic rule was indicated by a dance for men wearing military uniforms and marching with the infamous goose step.
One of the show’s most exciting numbers was a whirlwind display of boleadoras inwhich two small wooden balls are each attached to a long cord and, one in each hand, spun at breathtaking speed. It was performed by five males who danced at the same time.
During the spin, the balls were maneuvered to strike the floor, creating fascinating rhythmic sounds. The segment’s charismatic soloist whipped his cords around so close to his head that they grazed his hair. A millimeter off would have cost him an ear. After one such tour de force he finished with a triple pirouette to the knee.
His accompaniment was percussive. Two male dancers drummed on wooden boxes called cajons, and bassist Roberto Santocono did the same on the body of his instrument.
Unfortunately, the printed program carried no role attribution for the ten dancer’s names. Suffice to say they were all immensely talented, the ladies gorgeous, the men handsome.
At one point, the ladies looked especially ravishing making an entrance in short, flaming red dresses. It was no surprise that palpable sighs of appreciation rippled through the audience.
Many of the dance numbers were for couples, but there were also solos and uniquely synchronized ensemble sections. Although sensual moves, poses and flashy intertwined legs were aplenty the inventive choreography never became repetitious or predictable.
The choreographer, Hector Falcon, has been a Tango star on stage and TV for most of his adult life and performs and teaches throughout the world. He is a Professor of Argentinean Folk Dance and conducts classes at the University of Buenos Aires.
The dancers were accompanied by five virtuoso, concert level players on violin, bass, two bandoneons and piano. The quintet’s musical segments were show stoppers as were the instrumental solos from violinist Mayumi Urgino and pianist Fernando Marzan.
Mr. Marzan is also the troupe’s musical director and composer and has recorded extensively. He has five albums of his own and participated in the recorded soundtrack of Evita. He is alsoa much sought afterarranger andaccompanist for other celebrated tango artists.
The company’s credits are not limited to its performers. The show’s artistic development is credited to Lucrezia Laurel, the troupe’s manager and writer. She studied theater in Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, California.
In 1988, the company’s artistic director, Rosario Bauza, was appointed by Argentina’s Minister of Culture to be that country’s Cultural Ambassador for the Tango. In addition to Tango, she has been associated with productions of classical ballet, opera and symphony.
The local performance was made possible by a special arrangement between UNLV’s Performing Arts Center and Andrew Grossman’s Columbia Artists Management.
The troupe’s final ovation (standing naturally) included the audience spontaneously applauding in unison, a special tribute in Europe and elsewhere but one rarely offered by American audiences. For Tango Buenos Aires the tribute was well deserved.