Tanguera: a tango musical

Sadler’s Wells, London
July 23, 2017

Jessica Wilson

Billed as summer escape to the sultry streets of Buenos Aires, Tanguera is certainly a dancing journey for both cast and audience. It opens with Giselle, a young French woman who hopes that Buenos Aires will be the start of her new life, arriving at the Argentinian port against a backdrop of sepia images. What follows is a stereotypical tale of a young woman coming to a new city with high hopes for a new life, but then turning to selling her body as a solution for her woes. It does little for the production, although the narrative does unfold nicely alongside the dance.

The cast is full of award-winning tango dancers: tango world champion Melody Celatti (Giselle), Dabel Zanabria (Gaudencio) and Esteban Domenichini (Lorenzo). The choreography is by another renowned tango star, Mora Godoy. Unfortunately, while musically Tanguera is a hit, the choreography rarely reaches the same level. The steps are all perfectly executed but only in the finale is there lots of thrills and sparkle.

TangueraPhoto Manuel Navarro
Photo Manuel Navarro

Earmarked as a tango musical, Tanguera opens with a thrilling overture by the onstage orchestra, followed by tango singing sensation Maranella who adds emotional depth to the action through her vocals. The set design is a simple dockyard, filled with reds and blacks, perhaps depicting the gamble Giselle is about to take in this unknown territory. A display of one-upmanship between the men sees the first hints of tango dance, which comes as a welcome relief from the many wandering arrivals seen previously.

Giselle arrives and meets Lorenzo, a passionate dock worker, and then the waiting Gaudencio, a brothel owner. This sets things up for a visit to the backstreets of Buenos Aires, a place and time of passion and tension.

The audience is teased with leg flicks, high kicks and sideways glances. The love story between Giselle and Lorenzo that runs throughout gives every reason to include a whole host of firecracker turns, smouldering eyes and those all-important flashing legs. But they’re not there, and the lack of these elements means the passion, drama and authentic feel is not always realised.

The finale does end the show on a high, the adrenaline-filled choreography promised finally making an appearance. Now passion emerges between the dancers and the true essence of tango is revealed. It was an awe-inspiring display, and finally the audience responded to the action on stage, the quick-fire lifts, flicks and swivels.

Tanguera is at Sadler’s Wells to August 6. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for details and tickets.