Agustina Videla and Nora Lezano are the cornerstones of the show now playing in La Boca
The tango look is no longer about fishnet stockings and split skirts, double-breasted suits with a dark hat and a flower in the button-hole. It is no longer the preserve of malevos (streetwise tough guys, with a line in sharp suits and even sharper knives) and showgirls who seem to float on clouds of alcohol and smoke. All that’s changed. Now there’s Social Tango, a dance show combining short films and the modern tango æsthetic stripped of clichés, currently playing until October 6.
Directed by Agustina Videla and Nora Lezano, the show is being performed at the Teatro de la Ribera, overlooking the River Riachuelo. “There are nine scenes that tell a story and, being La Boca, there’s a certain mystique in the fog over the Riachuelo,” – a nod in the direction of the famous tango by Cobián and Cadicamo – “Caminito Street, tango, and everything; it is wonderful”, says Nora. Agustina adds, “We are not trying to fit into any canon or please everyone. We use traditional tango classics alongside electronic tangos. There’s even a flamenco version! We like the mix. That is what is happening at present. Guided by our own musical tastes and by finding the emotion needed by each scene, we pieced the show together.”
The performers are 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. The costumes are by Renata Schussheim, the choreography by Agustina Videla and the photography and video are the work of Nora Lezano.
How did you come up with the idea of putting together a combined show?
Agustina Videla: We thought about how we could portray on stage what excites and moves us about tango as it is danced today. In most cases there is a dissociation between what is shown on stage and what people experience when they go out to dance. We wanted to combine photography, dance and cinematic documentary storytelling to recount the present day feeling. We approached Nora with the intention for her to take the photos for the show because she was someone that could portray the image we were looking for. She was the one that had the idea of taking portraits of the characters in a mini studio set up in the milongas.
Nora Lezano: I had zero experience of the milonga. I wanted to get to know that world. That is why we set up the Photography Space at the Teatro de la Ribera – which is run by Juan Travnik –, and the Milongueros exhibition, linked to the presentation of the show. I did a series of portraits with a visually austere format, which always enables me to capture an expressive attitude on the part of the models, who were ordinary people that had gone out to dance. It is a simple concept: the characters silhouetted against a white background, without lighting effects, or extravagant poses, or striking backgrounds. The gaze focuses on the features, clothes and expressions of each character.
AV: We wanted to present the diverse and heterogeneous reality of true tango. We worked from July to December last year on the pre-production, with regard to both the film-related and photographic aspects. In March we began to work on the stage-related aspects with the fourteen dancers and we rehearsed for twice as long to tell a short story: four months with a working team from different disciplines. But we wanted them to be genuine, from tango, not contemporary dancers that know a bit about tango, but rather the other way round. We wanted them to come from tango and have some idea of contemporary dance. And with a gift for acting. It was a gradual process of construction.
NL: The story told reaches beyond tango, but this music fits it perfectly. There are three short films that recount the present day experiences of a bunch of Buenos Aires townies of various different ages, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds, who have found in tango a space of socialization and enjoyment, which has brought about a positive change in their lives. That is Social Tango.
IMAGE AND VIDEO
Nora Lezano is a photographer and video artist who started out in the 1990s and distinguished herself in the field of rock music. Her portraits of such well-known musicians as Charly García, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Gustavo Cerati, León Gieco, Liliana Herrero, Andrés Calamaro, Vicentico, Illya Kuryaki, and Fito Páez – among many others – constitute the most representative facet of her work. She has also shot the cover photos for numerous albums, of rock music as well as other genres. Her photographic work has been published in print media in Argentina and abroad.
DANCE AND CHOREOGRAPHY
Agustina Videla studied at the National School of Dance and was a member of the Modern Dance Company El Aleph. In 1998, she was chosen to join the cast of the show that represented Argentina during the World Expo in Lisbon. As a teacher, choreographer and dancer she has participated in festivals including: Fourth Tango Summit (Portugal), Orvieto International Jazz Festival (Italy), Hannover Tango Festival (Germany), L’Été du Tango (France), Summer Tango Festival (United States). For the past 15 years she has been teaching intensive tango seminars in Europe, Canada and the United States.