Tango Moderno – Review – Hull New Theatre
By Rachel Howard, February 2018
Tango. Moderno. Two contrasting words that conjure up a puzzle in my mind. How can the tango – a 19th-century traditional Argentine dance – be made modern? And indeed, is that what this show is about?
As I take my seat in the newly refurbished Hull New Theatre, I wonder what awaits. This isn’t the first time I have been lucky enough to watch tango supremos Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace in concert. Since their departures from BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, they have been on the road showcasing their dancefloor talents in shows including Midnight Tango, Dance ‘Til Dawn and The Last Tango. Having been part of the audience for two of those three shows, I know I am in for a treat – but quite how they will portray tango in a new and modern light remains to be seen.
The curtain opens to a run-down street scene – not Argentina as you might expect – more British council estate. Vincent and Flavia are joined on stage by an accomplished cast of dancers, two singers (Rebecca Lisewski and Tom Parsons), and a band who are mostly hidden except for the phenomenal talent of the violinist Oliver Lewis.
“Dance, passion and love”
As the story unfolds, the idea behind Tango Moderno is eloquently revealed through the medium of dance, song and spoken word. Our narrator, Tom Parsons, guides us poetically through life in the 21st century – a non-stop whirlwind of commuting, smart phones and loneliness. A negative thought, perhaps, but from the wings come our modern-day saviours – Vincent and Flavia playing Cupid-like characters injecting dance, passion and love into people’s lives.
Granted, this is not your run-of-the-mill dance show storyline. In fact, it’s totally left field. If you thought you were going to watch a Strictly-type show, or even 90 minutes of authentic tango performance, you may well be disappointed. However, what you do get is a fantastic mix of dance styles – tango, quickstep, foxtrot, jive and street dance to name but a few – and an eclectic selection of music featuring everything from Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ to Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ through to Rag’n’Bone Man, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars.
The ensemble cast supports the two main stars beautifully, although it must be said, when Vincent and Flavia are on stage, they demand attention. The flair and technique they display is, at times, outrageous and can place the other dancers somewhat in the shade.
This is especially the case in a strange scene that features female dancers being wheeled across the stage in wheelbarrows, lawn mowers and a shopping trolley. It’s all a bit cheesy and I’m not sure it had much place in the show as a whole, but it is soon forgotten by the encore performance by Simone and Cacace. This was a masterclass in the Argentine tango.
We’ve all seen it on Strictly (Debbie McGee did a great job of this dance last season), but nothing beats seeing it in real life. The speed of movement, the intensity of the partnership – no wonder it earned a standing ovation from the opening night crowd.
Special mention must be given to the two singers – Rebecca Lisewski and Tom Parsons. Although this is predominantly a dance show, these voices really manage to bring everything together and raise the show to a different level. Lisewski’s voice is one of sheer power, from the front row to the very back row, the audience are mesmerised. Parsons uses spoken word poetry to narrate the story, but he also belts out a number of brilliant songs. His version of ‘Human’ by Rag’n’Bone Man was a personal highlight.
Tango Moderno is not your average dance show, but then Flavia and Vincent are not your average dancers. Yes, there are a few odd aspects to this production, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and can highly recommend it to any dance fan, be it traditional or contemporary. This show has something for everyone.
images: Manuel Harlan