If you ask my daughter how old she is, she’ll hold up one hand and show you four fingers. That’s cute. This week, if someone asks you what the temperature is outside, you can use the same method of response. Not so cute when you’re talking about frigid temps, rather than the ripe old age of four.
But for a couple of hours at least, I may have a solution for you: the tango. One of Argentina’s great cultural exports, Tango Buenos Aires is coming to New Jersey this week, just in time to thaw our frozen tundra.
On Friday, February 20 at 8:00 p.m., Tango Buenos Aires comes to bergenPAC in Englewood (as I’ve written before, it will always be the John Harms Center to me!). Known for presenting the most authentic and uncompromising examples of the art form, Tango Buenos Aires’ latest program is “Song of Eva Perón.” Through an evening of music and dance, Tango Buenos Aires will portray the poignant and passionate life of Eva Perón, from her humble beginnings to her prominent role as Argentina’s captivating First Lady. (Yup, that Eva Perón, but not that music. Not only are Tango Buenos Aires’ dances authentic and original, so is the musical accompaniment!)
But, “tango,” you say? If what comes to mind is a couple of people stalking back and forth across the stage, arms outstretched, clasping hands – you’re in for a big surprise. THIS is tango:
Now that I have your attention…
With origins in the late 19th century, Argentine tango has a mixture of African and Spanish roots, with strong influence from milonga, which is sung by Gauchos—the Argentine “cowboys.” While it used to be most popular in the scandalous dance halls and cabarets, this style of dance today calls for exquisite timing and technique. And great rapport between the dancers, since they spend much of the time intertwined throughout the intricate footwork, dramatic lifts, spins and dips.
If you’re a fan of the FOX TV show “So You Think You Can Dance,” you know all about how difficult the tango is to master, even for performers skilled in other dance genres.
Eva Perón is such a natural subject for Tango Buenos Aires to tackle – a beautiful, accomplished heroine with a passionate and dramatic story. A former actress, Eva Perón began a life in politics before marrying Colonel Juan Perón in 1945, just before he became president of Argentina in 1946. Over the next six years, she used her position to advocate for humanitarian causes and to promote the rights of laborers before she tragically died of cancer at the young age of 33.
Each of the five female dancers in the 10-member dance company will portray Eva in a different period in her life, from her arrival in Buenos Aires as a teenager to becoming the iconic Argentinian First Lady. Granted, I didn’t know much about Eva’s personal or public live prior to working on this piece, but I find it so interesting how much “The Song of Eva Perón” focuses on the period in Eva’s life between her departure for Buenos Aires and when she meets Colonel Perón. Of the evening’s 25 numbers (12 in Act I and 13 in Act II), Eva and Juan don’t meet until the 18th number: “Game of Gazes.” (Even the descriptive phrase is romantic – the program says: “Eva and Perón meet, they cannot stop gazing at each other.”)
The passionate dancing will be accompanied by soulful, live music from instrumentalists playing the piano, bandoneón (a concertina-like accordion), violin and bass, as well as a female vocalist.
“The Song of Eva Perón” is the latest offering from Tango Buenos Aires, a company that has been entertaining and educating audiences for more than 30 years. They were formed for the Jazmines festival at the famous Buenos Aires cabaret Michelangelo by renowned composer and tango director Osvaldo Requena. Having met with such success, the company shortly travelled to the U.S. to represent Argentina at the Latin-American Festival in New York City. And that, kids, was that – they’ve been fascinating audiences worldwide with new shows pretty much since that moment.
So come in out of the cold this week for Tango Buenos Aires’ “The Song of Eva Perón” and the electric footwork, passionate dancing and soulful music will quickly thaw you out. And hey, unlike our friends further north, at least you don’t have to trudge through six feet of snow to get there on top of the single digit temps!
Tango Buenos Aires performs “The Song of Eva Perón” on Friday, February 20 at 8:00 p.m. at bergenPAC, located at 30 North Van Brunt Street in Englewood, NJ. Tickets ($69, $49 and $39) may be obtained by calling 201.227.1030 or by visiting www.bergenpac.org. The performance is sponsored by Wilmington Trust, an M&T Company.
Tango Buenos Aires’ “The Song of Eva Perón” also makes stops at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (Thursday, February 19) and the State Theatre (Saturday, February 28).