Argentine Tango, review: Opus Theatre, Saturday, September 7

Who would have thought there were so many Tango dancers on the south coast?

Argentine Tango
Argentine Tango

Opus Theatre was near capacity for an extended session that brought us a relaxed introduction to the history of the Tango together with demonstrations and musical examples.

Presented in cooperation with Hastings Tango Club and Casa Tango, much of the afternoon centred on Polo Piatti himself who not only comes from Argentina but has an intimate working knowledge of Tango’s origins and darker secrets – many of which are probably best kept in the dark. He was joined by Dr Graham Whitham, Rosie McAndrew and Philip White from Hastings Tango Club and Phoebe Brown and Paul Nash from Casa Tango, all of whom added their own comments and experience as the session progressed.

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There were many things that came out of the session, which were probably unknown to any of the audience not immediately caught up in the passion of the dance form. The first, and most striking, was the fact that there is no specific way of dancing the tango. It is essentially improvised and demands strong leadership and even more subtle ability on the part of the partner being led. Equally surprisingly, in its earliest form it was danced by men dancing together, without any indication of sexual undertones. There are early photographs of male couples, taken at a time when only women of ‘dubious character’ would be seen dancing publicly with men.

Another key element was the emergence of Tango from an urban rather than a rural background. It is essentially street dancing, where there is little room for large scale movement or for the formations familiar in many international folk dances.

Many of these factors came together towards the end of the second half when another couple danced on the small platform at the Opus to Polo Piatti improvising a tango at the piano. Neither knew in advance what was coming and it was thrilling to see all three of them responding to the creativity of the others.

Polo has suggested that Opus Theatre might mount a Tango Festival next year – an idea which was universally and enthusiastically received – so we can look forward to that to build on this highly successful start.

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