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Dance | Dance Review

Too Hot to 'Tango'? Try Lukewarm

March 29, 2001|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

In "Tango Dreams," Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo try to depict the estrangement and reconciliation of an Argentine husband-and-wife dance team just like themselves. But at the Alex Theatre Monday, they proved more exciting when they stopped asking "Was the passion of our dancing an illusion?" and started showing the audience that it wasn't.

Working with director/co-choreographer Yanco Inone, the dancers don't convincingly dramatize the relationship crisis, leaving it a pretext for diversionary fantasy sequences. Worse, the final resolution of that crisis comes across as gimmicky--semi-nudity in dim light--when the second half of the evening desperately needs a juicy, extended duet.

Ghi is a statuesque tango icon who remains elegant even when trying to look trashy. Merlo proves something of a chameleon, and simply watching his hands on Ghi's back provides a lesson in the subtleties of tango partnering.

Their choreography usually exploits their mastery of intricate, step combinations performed in intimate ballroom clinches--but there are exceptions. In "The Movie," for instance, they successfully tangoize the sultry Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse jazz duet from "Singin' in the Rain."

Along with showcasing Ghi and Merlo, "Tango Dreams" offers generous opportunities for singer Martin de Leon to display his own versatility and also provides solos for four accomplished musicians.

De Leon's finest moments come in Astor Piazzolla's "Balada Para un Loco," with his deft performance gaining impact from the availability of translated lyrics in the program booklet. Company musicians include Horacio Romo (bandoneon), Pablo Agri (violin), Roberto Tormo and Pablo Motta (both on bass) and Christian Zarate (piano and musical direction).

*

* "Tango Dreams," tonight and Friday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m., Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. $25-$45. (800) 233-3123. Also Wednesday and April 6 at 7:30 p.m., Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. $25-$35. (805) 449-ARTS.

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