Most of us have identified with an enthralled Eliza Doolittle, that “Fair Lady,” as she sang I Could Have Danced All Night. But have you? Really?
In Buenos Aires, tango enthusiasts have every night available to them, waiting to fill it with dance and greet the dawn. (See my article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, an interview with tango professional Esteban Moreno.) But that is something that hasn’t been seen in Pittsburgh, where shows like Tango Argentina, while entertaining showpieces, were mostly a string of duets.
Now there is something else afoot in Buenos Aires that we hadn’t seen in Pittsburgh until the Pittsburgh Dance Council brought in Unión Tanguera.
The company is representative of an emerging style in Argentina, a way of blending tango with contemporary dance and setting it in a dramatic context.
The result was Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night), created in 2010.
Founders and artistic directors Claudia Codega and Moreno studied with maestros of the Argentine tango and Codego had extensive experience in contemporary dance and ballet. Thus a hybrid art form was born.
When they founded Unión Tanguera, the world travelers chose to base it in France as well as Argentina and have been instrumental in spreading the word, mightily contributing to the rise in popularity of a “new” tango.
That was on display in Nuit Blanche. It all began with the beat, no, the heartbeat of the tango. A minimalist drop suggested a couple of entrances and an alcove for a live quartet. Everything was atmospherically lit in blues and other hues.
As for the dance itself, it spanned both the history and the future of tango. Seven performers, four men and three women in a delicious imbalance, drifted into this nameless tango cafe, ready to dance the night away.
The inspiration came from Argentina reality. Well, maybe not the giant red bean bags, sometimes used like purses on the women and evocative of a ’70’s vibe. Or the wine glasses that sometimes were used as props during the routines.
But, in a way, they broke the tango mold, so that the men or women could dance as independent groups. Even in a more traditional tango, one with featherlight steps, the man caressed the woman’s feet. And there was a comedic song accompanying the women (something about boobs and buns according to a friend). They formed trios, like the double decker comic piece — one man sat on another’s shoulders and both danced with a woman. It made for a fascinating journey, much like the tango, not knowing where it would go.
But the real meat of the program came during some of the pure dance pieces. The sweet intensity of the Codego/Moreno partnership. Floor work, still in a tango hold, inserted into the choreography. A barefoot contessa picking her way through a flickering duo.
There was no doubt that the night would melt away as the performers left to greet another day. But this should have been a poetic ending and it just felt ordinary, a hiccup, yes, but still a mesmerizing evening of dance.