Review: M¡longa at The Lowry

Taking on a fusion of contemporary dance with Tango, the latest piece which Dance Consortium bring around the UK is the unlikely brainchild of Belgian Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who presents a unique reworking of the classical techniques of Tango with his deeply theatrical style of presentation.
The curtain rises to an open black space with a tender duet between two dancers – accompanied by a five piece band (on a raised platform) who play gentle piano rhythms along with the somber tones of a solo violin. The black panels of the stage suddenly part progressively revealing the rest of the company who saunter onto stage, greeting and enjoying moving between and watching one another. I really enjoyed the lack of pretentiousness in the work, the dancers are able to appreciate each other’s talents and as such the dramatic sequences have a much more raw quality.
The incorporation of projection into the work is extremely clever and purposeful – often there is little action on stage allowing the space itself to dance and beautifully complement the action. When the next duet begins the couple are projected seven times over, each dancing slight manipulations of the same steps. The dancers fall in and out of sync with the projection, both preempting and falling behind as they indulge in certain moments – this gives the piece an imperfect finish which I find incredibly dynamic against the precise form of the dance.
My favourite section is headed by Vivana D’attoma, an extremely charismatic dancer who begins comically running against panning shots of Argentinian streets – buildings emerge as though from a pop-up book in a very inventive and energetic sequence. Finally these are replaced by a lavish red stage curtain on which D’attoma and partner Gabriel Bordon stand- what follows is a tongue-in-cheek routine which weaves teasing and affectionate flirtation amongst the athleticism of the strict routine. The dominance of the female in this duet really highlights the strength required from both parties through the elaborate partnering sequences.
The production as a whole is extremely well constructed and constant shifts in form make it a visual delight for the audience – the tango really naturally embodies the passionate emotions of the dancers and this creates a sometimes violent, sometimes mistrusting but mostly sensuous energy in the piece. The most harrowing moment for me is a funeral sequence in which veiled women dance in trios with male counterparts, the passion of the dancer is sucked away as they hollowly go through the motions of the steps – a really thoughtful way of bringing the idea of grief into a piece of this nature.

Coming to a close, the production is received with a standing ovation which I think shows the immense triumph of the tango; a elderly couple in the audience even began to dance which really made me smile.

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