Tango After Dark
from the company of Germán Cornejo
A Sadlers Wells production at
The Peacock Theatre Holborn London
11 – 22 October 2022
Sizzling, sensual, sexy … and simply sensational!
No apologies for the alliteration. This is ‘Tango After Dark’, currently showing at the Peacock Theatre just off Kingsway in Holborn: authentic Argentine tango exploding onto the stage in its most rawly intimate form, courtesy of the amazing Germán Cornejo and his company of dancers. His production merges staggeringly skilful choreography with the evocative music of the renowned Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla, and the result is just electrifyingly off the scale.
Germán Cornejo is a World Champion tango star who began his career at the age of 12, and certainly knows how to put on a show. Partnered as usual by the wonderful Gisela Galeassi, they take us right into the heart of Buenos Aires as night descends, demonstrating tango at unbelievable speed, each movement oozing with passion and eroticism. The show comprises two acts – a well deserved short interval between them – with no fewer than 13 dance sequences in each act, featuring either one couple or the ensemble of all eight dancers, plus Cornejo and Galeassi. Behind the performers, but rightly prominent, are the 7 accomplished orchestral musicians, their individual instruments combining to conjure up the familiar haunting sound of the genuine Argentine tango. However here a special mention should go to Clemente Carrascal on Bandoneon, the instrument so symbolic of the dance, his playing is completely mesmerising. Vocals are supplied by the wonderful Antonela Cirillo and Jesús Hidalgo, who both perform with as much gusto and drama as the dancers themselves. Antonela changes frocks, hairstyle and jewellery for each sequence, at one point appearing in a fabulous diamanté-laden dress, adorned with a huge necklace and sparkly earrings almost resting on her shoulders, which would have rivalled Evita herself.
Cornejo was anxious to bring us tango that doesn’t evoke the clichés of the ‘machista imagery of the street hustler and prostitutes in the brothels’ that some previous tango shows had focused on. Rather he wanted to demonstrate the ‘sophistication, elegance and innovation’ of the dance, giving us an almost inconceivable amount of high speed lifts, turns, and acrobatics interspersed by those provocative ‘ganchos’ – the kicks, flicks and leg hooks so unique to Argentine tango. There is nothing basic to this Nuevo Tango choreography; it’s incredibly elaborate and visually stunning, the disciplined synchronicity in the ensemble pieces is a triumph. With the talented musicians transporting us to the atmosphere of a sultry night in Buenos Aires, who could not help but be totally captivated by the whole fabulous package, thanks to their supreme talent and that of their Musical Director Diego Ramos.
The only slightly jarring moments for me were the sequence with two stage- width ‘scarves’ of chiffon being waved about from the wings, with the dancers performing in-between them, and then the mysterious occasional appearances of a dancer at the opening of sequences sexily ‘playing’ a prop bandoneon at front of stage, when the real musician playing the real instrument was right behind her. Not sure what that was about. And ….. there is no plot or storyline here; personally I would have preferred a little change of set – maybe in the second act?
Having experienced one or two tango productions in the past, the dark, smouldering atmosphere was definitely enhanced by scenes sometimes set in a bar or café, with a back story of jealous lovers and high emotion. But maybe that’s just what Cornejo wished to break away from …… This production consists of bang, bang, bang ‘in your face’ dances, delivered in set sequences: hardly a breath between each piece, with no distractions from the performances. Having said that, ‘Tango After Dark’ is an incredible work of art, indisputably a high octane, highly accomplished show with the highest production values, truly deserving of the whoops, cheers and standing ovations it regularly achieves.
So strap yourselves in and prepare to feast your eyes on Argentine tango as you’ve probably never seen it outside of Buenos Aires. Makes ‘Strictly’ look positively tame.
2 hours 10 minutes (including interval)
Reviewer: Gill Ranson