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Theatre Review: M¡longa

10 June 17 words: Alison Kirkman

A tango dance party, where friends or total strangers go to experience the joy and intimacy of tango

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui collaborated with acclaimed Argentinian composer Fernando Marzan and Argentinian Tango expert Nélida Rodriguez to choreograph M¡longa. The title translates as ‘tango dance party’, an intensely social experience where Argentinian couples, friends or total strangers go to experience the joy and intimacy of tango dance.

A fusion of Argentinian Tango and contemporary dance, M¡longa deconstructs the traditional elements of tango. Cherkaoui exposes moments of intimacy by having dancers perform tango steps back to back, in groups of three and four, or even with arms mimicking leg movements.

Of six couples, five are tango professionals, the sixth are contemporary dancers. Cherkaoui chose them with help from Rodriguez who presented him with her very favourite tango dancers, all with their own unique style.

There’s plenty of traditional tango in the show – fast moving, mind blowing sequences filled with fiery passion, occasionally punctuated by arguing in Portuguese. Rows quickly melt away into romance again though with comedy, camaraderie and drama all playing a part in the evening.

Shadows and silhouettes are used to create the feeling of a whole community engaged in the dance. Beautiful duets are amplified by clever use of film to duplicate the couple’s movements, emphasising their deeply felt connection. Scenes are separated by projections of moving images from the busy streets of Buenos Aires – less interesting than the dance, but a reminder of its roots.

Cherkaoui’s fascination with tango is partly to do with the ease that strangers connect through the dance. From sitting on the sidelines watching the floor spin with couples, an invitation to dance, he says, is effectively an invitation to be held. You’re not alone when you dance the tango, you’re part of a community.

At first, the contemporary couple’s struggle to fit in, or even to connect with each other contrasts with the comfort and ease the other couples experience. But eventually something beautiful happens.

If you loved Strictly, you’ll really love M¡longa. It’s basically 90 minutes of tango showstoppers that will have you enthralled, amazed and, when it’s over, wondering where the time went.

M¡longa plays at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 June 2017.

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