By Carlos Bevilacqua
Social Tango, which premieres this month at the Teatro de la Ribera, will aim to show how contact with the dance can transform someone.
Tango never fails to provoke. As music, it always generates something: pleasure, rejection, curiosity, surprise, attention. As dance, it usually seduces at first sight. And if those who feel drawn to that walking embrace are brave enough to give it a try, they’re almost bound to get hooked. This fascination with the popular dance of Buenos Aires is the theme of Social Tango, a show directed by Agustina Videla and Nora Lezano, playing at the Teatro de la Ribera from July 12, with production by the Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires, under the auspices of the City Government.
“Our aim is to show how a person is transformed by the chance to dance, the social space that opens up for them and how they begin to relate to people of different ages, nationalities and social classes”, explains Videla, a young dancer and choreographer specializing in tango who spent most of her career abroad. “The fact of having travelled so much enables me to confirm that the passion for tango as a social dance is universal. People who in many cases live alone or immersed in a routine discover another world when they learn to dance. There are few environments where such different people cross paths. And in the milonga they are all made equal by the desire to dance”, she states, delighted by her first experience of being in charge of a theater show.
The story will be told in two ways. On the one hand, via the choreographies designed by Videla for a group of fourteen carefully selected dancers, who will represent different stages of the ordinary man’s evolution toward being a milonguero. On the other hand, the walls of the stage will add another layer of meaning through the projection of three short films on to a huge cyclorama-type screen. These shorts were filmed especially for the occasion by Nora Lezano, the other director of Social Tango.
A prestigious photographer with vast experience in the world of rock music, Lezano was originally invited to shoot some portraits of regular visitors to the milonga for a presentation folder. But she quickly became increasingly involved in the project. Lezano herself says, “I was bowled over. I had never been to a milonga and I loved it precisely because it was unknown territory for me. For the regular milonga-goers tango is everything. There were people who said to us, ‘if it weren’t for the dance, I would already be dead’. The first time we talked, I put several ideas to Agustina. She already had a script prepared and, with her consent, I gradually worked my way into that script. We ended up making loads of changes”. Very soon her participation led to a small studio being set up on an ad hoc basis in the milonga Cachirulo. There they selected seven amateur dancers with very different characteristics to star in the three films, directed by Lezano in the second audiovisual experience of her career. The still images that remain from that casting will be exhibited in a photo gallery in the theater during the run of performances.
The live dancing will take its inspiration from various sources, as Videla explains. “We didn’t want to be tied to any dogma. The corporal languages are subject to the telling of the story. In some parts we make use of contemporary dance, in others dancefloor tango and in others still a more modern tango. There are even some elements of neoclassical dance, but subordinated to the movements of salon tango. Our aim is to transmit the true feeling of the tango that people dance, but without limiting ourselves to dancefloor tango as a corporal language”, she explains. According to Videla, the show’s complexity will lie not in any technical brilliance but in the geometry and synchronicity of the couples.
To realize their aims, the two directors held an audition to select young dancers with a solid tango background, some knowledge of contemporary dance and the desire to grow artistically during the rehearsals. Those chosen were Rodrigo Arze, Sebastián Fernández, John Galindo, Cristian García, Horacio Herrera, Eva Icikson, Lucía Ohyama, Edwin Olarte Montiel, Leonardo Pankow, Guadalupe Poncelli, Giselda Seewald, María Josefina Stellato, Violeta Videla, and Constanza Vieyto, who will wear garments made by the prestigious costume designer Renata Schussheim.
During this ever-arduous process of trial and error Agustina Videla was not alone. In Julio Arias and Sergio Villalba she found assistants in partnering technique, in Verónica Maseda a contemporary dance assistant and in Mayra Galante (with whom she also directed the rehearsals) assistance with strictly tango-related aspects. The latter, another young tango dancer with considerable experience abroad, also participated in the genesis of the project, along with Ramón de Oliveira, as our interviewee explains. In keeping with the eclecticism of the movements, the sound track of Social Tango is composed of traditional songs that are generally played on the dancefloors but not usually heard on stage, as well as other more daring pieces, which reflects the spirit of exploration characteristic of our times, with regard also to music. Indeed, the sign of the times is one of the fundamental objectives of the production. “We feel that in general tango shows are disconnected from the current reality of the genre. That is why, from the beginning, we wanted to put together a show that talks about contemporary tango”, states Videla. The chance to fill that gap will last for three months, with performances from Thursday to Sunday, at the beautiful municipal theater in the La Boca district.