Cal Performances and The Tango Tradition

23 Nov

November 17 Cal Performances presented Union Tanguera, a French-based tango ensemble of seven dancers and five musicians in Nuit Blanche in a 7 p.m. performance at Zellerbach Hall.

This seventy-minute portrait of tango and the environment likely fostering tango’s sultry sensuality was simply staged. Using white and black scrims for exits and entries, glasses, a bottle or two to convey an atmospheric lubricant and flame-colored cushion-chairs hoisted on to a woman’s shoulder by a strap, the weary, predatory and seductive signals wove a sultry spell. That the ensemble is based in Lyon some how is no surprise; some of the most experimental French dance events have found a home and patronage in this gastronomically-famed French city near two noted wine-growing regions.

Nuit Blanche (2010) was not the spectacular display seen a decade or two ago when Tango Argentina or Forever Tango lingered in San Francisco. Then a large ensemble danced individual numbers; here, it was more an evening where men drifted in from work, women were waiting, all with the intent of diversion, dance leading to sex in a nearby room; maybe, later, the remainder of the evening or night as well. There was no hint of romantic love, but lust abundant and skilled maneuvers to satisfy both individuals, frequently ego dominant. Pairings, partings, the appraisals and final decisions were etched in their portrayals, bitter sweet in flavor. Sofia Di Nunzio dressed the women in costumes which flared or displayed a length of leg, pale pastels or flame in hue; the men wore ties, shaggy trousers, jackets or shirt sleeves; all reinforced the ambiance of a working class dive.

While some of the comings and goings seemed overly long with one or two quite contrived, both restraint and unrestrained coupling with splayed legs created a powerful, tawdry universe for the audience. When the final couple left, the odd man out arranged a row of glasses in front of him, the piano behind the white scrim, and prepared to bed down for the night with the promise of liquor-based oblivion.

Claudia Codega and Esteban Moreno, the artistic directors, both hail from Argentina, and come from divergent directions; classical ballet and electronic/graphic design technology. Their creations have been performed since 2005 and situated in Lyon since 2006, but have performed together since 1992.

Other ensemble members’ credits include their own choreographic chops with classical training or vast tango experience: Rolan Van Loor; Jorge Crudo; Lucila Cioni, Rodrigo “Joe” Cordoba; Claudia Jakobsen, with the musicians Pedro Onetto; Camilo Ferrero, the bandoneon; Marta Roca Alonso; Ignacio Varchansky, with the lighting design credited to Gonzalo Cordova. From the program notes, the ensemble gathers and disburses as tours are arranged.

The audience liked it. So did I, enough that I would like to see the group again.

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