Germán Cornejo’s Immortal Tango follows on from last year’s well-received hit show Tango Fire – on which he was choreographer and one of the dancers. This time he returns with his own company of 14 tango dancers for a further reinvention of this Argentinian classic.
Hopes are high in the opening number El Tango de Roxanne, complete with glitzy costumes reminiscent of a Strictly showstopper, featuring innovative moves, scissor-kicks, death-defying jumps and drops from the off. However it soon becomes clear that this is a show with an identity crisis. Immortal Tango plays with a number of concepts, attempting to prove that tango doesn’t necessarily require the expected intensity, or to feature the much repeated motif of woman and lover in dramatic lighting (although there is some of that too). Cornejo draws inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood with numbers set at a masquerade ball and a debutantes’ outing. Musical accompaniment jumps from traditional tango, to Abba, to the theme from Titanic – a hotchpotch of ideas, some more successful than others.
There are some truly show stopping numbers when the dancers are showcased individually. Naturally, World Champions Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi are breathtaking in their first routine comprising of ambitious throws, leap and jumps as well as a blur of incomprehensible footwork that has the audience gasping in admiration. Unfortunately the larger group numbers are sometimes messier and at times seem even a little under-rehearsed. They are not aided by the compact stage at The Peacock which is filled to capacity with the large cast (including live musicians) and as a result their movements seem somewhat restricted.
Another highlight is an exhilarating male duet to Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango. However when juxtaposed with the overall bizarre theming – a cross-dresser here and a Swan Lake mash-up there – it quickly becomes unclear what the show is trying to say. Cornejo wants to display versatility, but this arrangement is too frenetic. As stand alone numbers each piece is enjoyable in its own way but when merged, the production does not hang together comfortably, despite the undeniable talent of the dancers and musicians featured.
Much care has clearly been taken with the eye-catching design but in the masquerade ball and the final number the costuming seems overly fussy and the dancers appeared to struggle with controlling it in conjunction with their fast footwork – these dancers are talented enough to just dance without distractions.
The standout number of the evening Is Cornejo and Galeassi’s tango to Skyfall, sung impressively by Antonela Cirillo. Throughout, much of the tango dancing doesn’t feel like tango and in this case it feels more like a rumba. However no one is thinking about that when these two champions pull off some of their greatest moves that have to be seen to be believed. One-handed and spun around Cornejo’s head, Galeassi is truly fearless in her attack and the audience needs no invitation to show its appreciation.
Quite rightly the musicians do get individual chances to shine, but in numbers where both dancers and singers are centre stage the two seem to be battling for the spotlight. A number set to Gangsta’s Paradise perhaps seems the most bizarre and to demonstrate this point most aptly, the modern tango feels secondary to the dominant and powerful vocals of Cirillo.
With its brash costumes and lack of coherency running throughout it struck me that this is the kind of show that most critics would absolutely despise, but despite its flaws Immortal Tango is still an enjoyable night out and a visual spectacle. The undeniable talent of the cast stands out and the dancers continuously demonstrate versatility and passion for their art. This may not be a runaway hit but you have to admire Cornejo’s effort to rejuvenate tango for the 21st century.
First published on LondonDance.com