|The Dancers of Tango Buenos Aires: Photo by CAMI|
Penelope has a keen eye. She wrote to me earlier in the week after reading about my recent encounters with my "Double" saying she had "multiple reactions"- a comment that left me curious and apprehensive. A cocktail at Market Bar followed by a meal at Il Cane Rosso and a ride over to the Berkeley campus gave us plenty of time to discuss these reactions in depth. The irony of our destination being a performance of tango dancing was not lost on me as we talked about the intricate, increasingly complex dance in which we are two of three principals. Whether she had the same thought I cannot say- or at least I wouldn't admit to trying to guess.
The performance by Tango Buenos Aires was sold-out and we arrived just in time. Scurrying about outside were dozens of the dark-haired beauties one might expect to see at a piece entitled Fire and Passion of Tango, yet as we took our seats they were curiously nowhere to be seen, the crowd largely made of up of the usual demographics of the Cal Performances audience. Behind us sat a chatty woman who wanted everyone within earshot to know she was acquainted with the dance world (not meant to imply she is representative of the aforemntioned demographics, to be sure). She grew tedious within moments. The more "interesting" audience for this night was apparently in the balconies.
The lights went down and five musicians launched into Matos Rodriguez's La Cumparsita as five couples tangoed across the stage. The musicians followed with Piazzolla's Preparense and the alluring diva Cynthia Avila sang an introduction and suddenly the space felt very much like a glamorous Milonga. A story of jealousy slowly unfolded as the couples danced through the next ten numbers, at times taking a backseat while other couples told stories of their own- relationships of indifference, romance, comedy- all without words, expressed solely through sensuous movements needing no further explanation. One dancer in particular stood out with a presence of equal measures of strength and sensuality- Inés Cuesta. Though she was the favorite of Penelope's as well, all of the women executed razor-sharp kicks, spins, and turns with an air of effortless grace and yes, fiery passion. The men too, led and lifted their partners through ridiculously complex moves making one marvel at their strength and sense of balance.
There was an intermission and then the musicians and dancers returned for another fourteen numbers, including three featuring just the orchestra. These musical interludes stood out on their own, the tunes of Piazzolla and Angel Villoldo Arolas giving pianist Fernando Bruguera and bandoneón player Martin Sued moments to shine. Talented as the musicians are, enticing as the music is, the show was all about the movement and stories of the dancers. When the partners had resolved their jealousies, put away their threats, the teases, and had stoked the flames of romances to full fire, the performance was complete. They took their bows and left the stage.
As for the conversation Penelope and I were having earlier, it continued well into the evening- and eventually it felt as if we were in a Milonga off a dark alley in central Buenos Aires. It was 2:00am and my Double sat on a stool, playing Melancólico on his bandoneón while Penelope and I danced. There was one more presence in the Milonga. There in the dim light, watching us with an imperceptible smile on her face, sat the Femme Fatale.