RECUERDO TANGO is the second of Mariela Franganillo’s tango shows that I have seen, and like the previous one, Tango Connection: Love Stories, it is distinguished by a feel for dramatic structure that goes beyond that of a revue whose main purpose is to showcase the history and virtuosity of the dance. Franganillo – in collaboration with a team of writers – is more interested in using tango to tell stories, in this case the psychological journey of a woman, played by Mariana Parma, intertwined with the emotional subplots of the people who surround her, including that of the man she is trying to free herself from, played by Diego Blanco.

A layered theatrical structure supports the dramatic one, consisting of dancers and musicians in live performance along with video and photographic projection. The live component features not only dance numbers but vignettes that are primarily theatrical but incorporate dance into the narrative, such as a comical speed dating scene in which the musical pairs end their interviews by trying each other out as tango partners. The videos sometimes constitute scenes in themselves: a really great tango ballet in a subway car, or a scene of domestic conflict that moves from the dinner table to a suitcase being packed in the bedroom. Often, the video (for which I could not find an independent credit) segues into the live action: a dancer, for example, might roll out of the frame and onto the stage.

RECUERDO TANGO is a drama without words, except for those of two songs, sung by Sofía Tosello, who is a sort of inner voice for Parma as she wrestles with the need to free herself from the possessiveness and physical abuse of the Blanco character. Tosello is a black-clad and somewhat ironic presence, soaring in her vocals yet invisible to Parma and the others. When the lyrics of the songs impel Parma to a state of resolve, the singer’s psychological function is fulfilled and she disappears until the curtain call.

RECUERDO TANGO is memorable indeed, because the tango, even when danced exquisitely well, is not done for its own sake but to serve the drama; the paradigm is more story ballet than Broadway revue. Among New York based dancers who specialize in tango shows, Parma is perhaps the best to be had for this sort of work because she never loses the reality of the moment in technical display or self-conscious virtuosity. That is a sensibility that permeates the whole production; it is what makes Franganillo not unique, certainly, but unusual among the producers of tango shows. There is plenty of skilled and impressive dancing, but it is always connected to a human moment, whether of male rivalry, the machismo abuse of women, or the vagaries of love and attraction.

RECUERDO TANGO, is filled with dance and musical talent of which I cannot list in full, and I, for one, am tempted to go again.

Click on Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts for information on upcoming events.

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