Review: Estampas Porteñas Tango Company’s ‘Deseos’ at the Music Center at Strathmore

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Images of the people of Buenos Aires, estampas porteñas, created nostalgic dreams of longing and desire in distant lands and rich cultures as the Estampas Porteñas Tango Company presented Deseos, a panorama or Argentinian music and dance at the Music Center at Strathmore. Tango is the national dance of Argentina and the distinctive folkloric musical traditions associated with this seductive dance embellished and enlivened this energetic one-of-a-kind performance.

Estampas Porteñas Tango Company. Photo courtesy of The Music Center at Strathmore.
Estampas Porteñas Tango Company. Photo courtesy of The Music Center at Strathmore.

Since the 90s, there’s been an international revival of the mid-century Golden Age of tango. Estampas Porteñas’ expression of pride in Argentinian culture is alive and well through its uniquely interpretive presentation of the tango. With its many variations, tango is more than just one style as it reflects the culture and heritage of various regions of Argentina and also Uruguay in different time periods and international influences. Whether in a milonga dance hall or performed theatrically on stage, we see nostalgic reminders of memories and times gone by as new lands beckoned new experiences that were expressed through a new cultural confluence of music and dance—the tango.

A distinguishing feature of Estampas Porteñas is that it has created a first in presenting the tango in what has been called a tango opera or tango musical theatre. Estampas Porteñas is a complete production in which a storyline is fully developed as a platform for showcasing the multi-faceted dynamism of tango dance and music.

In Deseos, Margot, a young girl from rural Argentina heads for the big city of Buenos Aires leaving behind Charlo. The separation between these two young lovers eventually leads to heartbreak not only for the couple, but especially for Margot who gets tricked into prostitution by a mysterious man she meets when she arrives in Buenos Aires. The story has a happy rather than tragic ending, however, and the betrayal of big city life gives way to true love as Margot and Charlo come together once again after a few entertaining episodes of dramatic conflict.

The performances of every single dancer and musician of this extraordinary company can be described as flawless. Estampas Porteñas’ technical excellence equaled its exquisite artistry which conveyed all of the emotion and beauty this spectacular genre of music and dance is capable of expressing. The female dancers were just gorgeous in conveying strong feminine allure and the male dancers portrayed the strength of the powerful Latin male with dancing that was breathtaking in perfection of execution and theatrical impact.

There are many of the varieties of tango steps and styles of dancing in Deseos. The long, elegant tango walk, complex footwork, and the gymnastic lifts and kicks, leg hooks and elegant drops are a visual delight. For example, one could feel the open embrace of Margot (Sabrina Amuchastegui) and Charlo (Christian Videla) and their compartidos and friends as they celebrated Margot’s upcoming departure for the big city at a going away party in the first act. And what a spectacle this party was with dazzling gauchos who performed the zapateros or foot-stomping style of dance influenced by Spanish flamenco projecting barrio tough guys with forceful flair. Or the malambo’s improvised tap dance tango movement,  the chacareras  partnered folk dances, and the ever-popular milonga, the fast, loose dance hall partnered social dance in South American culture. Deseos presents them all. Flawlessly.

Adding to the interactive experience of the Estampas Porteñas Tango Company’s performance was the uniquely creative 3-D projection mapping that provided the set design for this production (Nicolas Seijas and Leopoldo Videla Rivero). The bare stage of Strathmore instantly transformed into a virtual rural piazza, a train station and realistic train ride, an  urban barrio or city night club with stunning visual  effects such as a fountain of flowing water, naturally falling rain and much more. Margot’s bedroom was a virtual peek into her closet as the projected room revolved and seemed to move right before your very eyes. It felt as if you were watching a movie while simultaneously being on the actual set. What a unique experience of dance theatre.

Tango’s origins go back to candombe music and dance ceremonies that the slaves brought to that part of the world. And the best of African and European immigrants’ experiences were expressed in the emotive drama and excitement that came to be known as tango which Estampas Porteñas expressed superbly.  Free flowing, improvised dance moves and the rhythmic beat of tamborile drums go back to slave influences. Estampas Porteñas’ quartet of drummers, a cuerda, authentically re-created the pulsing drumbeat of the candombe.

Lead singer, Emiliano Castignola’s rich tenor enriched the atmospherics as he developed Deseos’ storyline through song. And under Musical Director/ Arranger and pianist Julian Caeiro, an excellent quartet of musicians created a harmonic blend of violin (Rodrigo Beraldi), bass (Emilio Longo), cello (Nicolas Rossi), and the native bandoñeon instrument (Nicolas Velazquez) that gives tango music its distinctively Argentinian sound.

Special mention goes to the men of the Estampas Porteñas Tango Company.  Their athletic strength and pure charisma reflected in entertainingly robust dancing, particularly the foursome who used entrancing twirling ropes in simultaneous accompaniment to their powerfully forceful flamenco style tango.

If you were unfamiliar with tango culture, Estampas Porteñas Tango Company’s Deseos was as wonderful an introduction to the energy, passion, and dynamism of Argentina’s vibrant heritage as one could ever experience.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Estampas Porteñas Tango Company‘s Deseos was performed on November 28, 2016, for one-night-only at The Music Center at Strathmore – 10701 Rockville Pike, in North Bethesda, MD. For future events at The Mansion and The Music Center at Strathmore go to the calendar of events.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Five STARS plus performance that transcended glamorous tango. But when the gauchos twirled the boleadoras spheres traditionally used for hunting cattle and wild game at blinding speeds that crackled the dance floor I was completely blown away. Very macho and sensuous at the same time. A complete performance!

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