‘Pure Tango’ at Gala Hispanic Theatre by Amanda Gunther


Tango es la pasiòn del alma. Tango is the passion of the soul. Tango is many things; it can be a man, a woman, a feeling, a dance…all these things and more. And all these discoveries of tango are explored as Gala Hispanic Theatre presents Puro Tango. More of a loosely connected variety show than anything else, this showcase intertwines tango in all its formats: song, choreography, narrative, at times even blending the mediums together to create an expression of art that reflects the fire of this intimate dance. A lively show that even invites the audience to dance upon the stage at the show’s finale and keeps the audience entranced with the sensual pulse of the music.

Analìa Centuriòn and Gabriel Missè. Photo by Nick Eckert.

Directors Hugo Medrano and Abel Lòpez work together to bring a unique presence to the stage. They set the orchestra Alvaro Hagopián (Musical Director & pianist), Ariel Fogel (Bass), Josè Lagreca (Bandoneòn) on the stage, visible for all to see, letting the music be heard that much stronger as they play for the singer and the dancers. Josè Lagreca plays the Bandoneòn, a type of concertina, and is the driving force behind the musical orchestrations in this show. Lagreca even has a solo feature song where Nelson Pino sings a somewhat distorted love ballad/ode to this particular instrument. The orchestra sounds like something you would expect to hear at an outdoor fair if you were wandering the streets of a little Hispanic town during carnivale season.

We see much in the way of eye-catching dresses featured on the female dancer, Analìa Centuriòn. Costume Designer Mariana Fernàndez presens Centuriòn with five distinctive dresses, each more stunning than the one before it. She starts with a simple black dress, saucy splits clean up to her hips allowing for maximum movements throughout her dancing. Fernàndez graduates the dancer into a sparkling silver dress with black and white accents, followed by a flowing spring-like white dress that resembles the iconic dress worn by Marilyn Monroe. As the show progresses a fourth dress makes its appearance; a black number with white polka dots and a white ribbon waist sash to complete the outfit. The final dress the audience is delighted to is saved for the finale: a long-sleeved backless garment with a deep scoop-cut front in a rich wine color. Fernàndez uses each of these dresses to punctuate Centuriòn’s entrances to the stage, making her dancing that much more enticing.

While not all of the songs connect lyrically to the tango, as there are several sung by Nelson Pino that involve his nostalgic remembrance of his childhood horses, his gambling addictions, and the old neighborhood, but they are all written in the style of tango. Pino has an operatic voice, solid and heavy but soothing against the ear when he sings. His voice burns with the passionate flames of the dance when he sings, be it an up-tempo number about the song itself, or a dirge mourning the loss of love. Occasionally his songs are accented with the tango dance being performed by Centuriòn and her partner Gabriel Missè. Despite focusing on the dance itself there are only brief moments when the dancers join Pino on stage as he sings, and the overall feel of the show would have been greatly enhanced had there been more mingling of this variety.

Nelson Pino (singer), Alvaro Hagopián (Musical Director & pianist), José Lagreca (bandoneón), and Ariel Fogel (bass). Photo by Nick Eckert.

The one problem that sticks out in this seamless flow of singing and dancing are the moments of pause created by the ‘actors.’ Lucrecia Basualdo and Luis Simòn have little snippets of scenes where they lament their emotions, sometimes together and sometimes solo, or do other text-based things that jar the fluidity of the piece. There is a scene between them that seems very disconnected from the concept of tango and the show as a whole; and their moments of poetry – even though Simòn has an ode to the dance – seem disjointed and disrupts the pacing of the production.

Come experience the all encompassing flame. Tango is like a slap and a caress, meant to entice and torment, the fiery soul of music come to life through sensual dance.

Be sure not to miss out on this conglomeration and celebration of Puro Tango.

Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes including 1 intermission.

Puro Tango plays through April 29, 2012 at The Gala Hispanic Theatre- 3333 14TH Street NW, in Washington DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 234-7174 or purchase them online

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