Wednesday 6 February 2013

Midnight Tango @ The Phoenix Theatre, West End.

Strictly Come Dancing has become something of an institution in this country, but it’s only fair that “the professionals” get a chance to shine in their own separate realm of dance.  And so it is that Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace have created Midnight Tango, a production that sees the championship winning pair performing together on the West End stage.  Even for someone whose only knowledge of Argentine tango comes from the BBC programme, this is a spectacular show.

Essentially a ballet in tango, the show takes place inside an Argentinian bar, wonderfully designed by Morgan Large.  The shabby interior is littered with detail (the set is even used as percussion at one point) and includes space for the excellent on-stage band (Tango Siempre) and singer Miguel Angel.  The bar is owned by an older couple, whose humorously bickering relationship plays out like a slapstick silent movie, providing a suitable counterpoint to the intense love affair of the principal dancers.  Although Russell Grant sadly was unable to perform as the bar owner through injury, his inclusion may have spoilt the illusion of Latin authenticity the production as a whole strives to achieve.

As is typical of the genre, Midnight Tango oozes sweat, passion and sensuality.  Argentine tango is the principal style of dance throughout, characterised by sharp intertwining leg movements, impressive lifts and lashings of Latino fire, accompanied by music from the likes of Astor Piazolla.  With such a busy stage it’s easy to get distracted, but our attention is always guided by the lighting.  The ensemble are immensely talented, gliding effortlessly across the floor, but even they pale in comparison to the obvious stars – Vincent and Flavia.  Regularly pulling focus, their dancing is tighter, sharper and faster than the others – a partnership that is truly a sight to behold.

Whilst the first half lacks a little variety, the second half offers more distinct and dramatic dances.  In particular, the climax of the production sees Vincent and Flavia perform a virtuosic rumba-esque romantic duet, their bodies intertwining in harmonious union – a simply stunning routine.  Beforehand an all-male dance cleverly subverts the typical couple as the men fight to outperform one another in peacockish bravura.  The finale, meanwhile, is a long sequence of routines that feature a magnificent display of skilful technique, strength and passion for dance.  The production may be on the short-side, but the stamina and, moreover, trust in one another that the dancers exhibit is astonishing.

As Midnight Tango replicates, the best place to see tango performed would be a small bar in a backstreet of Buenos Aires under a heady, starlit sky.  But for most of us, this is the closest we’ll ever get.


Watch: Midnight Tango returns to the West End at the Phoenix Theatre London until 2nd March, before touring the UK throughout the summer.