By Barry Bassis
Forever Tango,” Luis Bravo’s spectacular revue, should begin with a warning: “trying this at home can be injurious to your health.” The tango look is not hard to master, generally a sullen expression as the dancer stares off into space. (This seeming disinterest or antipathy is rather incongruous since their bodies are wrapped around one other.) The dangerous parts are those lightning-fast foot movements that have to be perfectly synchronized or one of the dancers would end up in a bruised heap on the floor. Like jazz, the tango began in brothels and then gained respectability as its popularity spread. “Tango Forever” recreates the various styles, from ballet to ballroom and show dancing to a wonderful comic pair, Marcelo Bernadaz and Verónica Gardella, performing “La Tablada.”
The 16 dancers in the permanent cast, all of whom come from Argentina and created their own choreography, are dressed to the nines, the women in glittery gowns (with thigh-high slits on the sides) and the men with pomaded hair, garbed in tuxedos or dark suits.
Some of the most spectacular work is by guest artists, the “Dancing with the Stars” duo
Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who are both Ukrainian. (Their choreography is by two of the excellent dancers in the show: Juan Paulo Horvath and Victoria Galoto.) Unlike the other poker-faced and conservatively dressed performers, Chmerkovskiy occasionally flashes his Elvis sneer and in the last number appears in a shirt open to the waist.
The show would be worth catching just for its sensual music, performed with verve by an 11-piece orchestra led by Victor Lavallén, with five string players, two pianists and four bandoneon players (There are only about 200 in the world.) This accordion-type instrument, imported from Germany, provides the most characteristic sound of the tango. The creator/director of the show, Luis Bravo, is on stage playing cello.
“Forever Tango” has no plot or dialogue; the only voice is that of the smooth vocalist Gilberto Santa Rosa, singing in Spanish. The award-winning Nicaraguan singer and composer Luis Enrique is replacing him between July 30th and August 18th. Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy will appear through August 11th. “Tango Forever” won awards during its earlier run on Broadway in 1997 and is back at the Walter Kerr Theater (219 West 48th Street; 212-239-6200) until September 15th. See this production and you will understand why the tango has captivated generations with its romantic sounds and slinky movements. On the other hand, if you want more than dance and music, this show is not for you.
For at-home listening, flute player Mark Weinstein has a new CD, “Todo Corazon: The Tango Album.” Weinstein had previously released albums concentrating on the music of Brazil, Cuba, Africa and the Caribbean. While he takes a jazzy approach, authentic feeling is guaranteed by Argentinean producer Pablo Aslan, who plays bass, handled the arrangements and co-produced the album with Weinstein. Also enhancing the authentic tango feeling is Raul Jaurena on bandoneon. As with the orchestra at “Forever Tango” and unlike most jazz groups, “Todo Corazon” has no percussionists. They are not missed, since the dance rhythms are readily discernible and irresistible.