Tango and Swing are completely opposite as musical genres with unique rhythms and very different movement styles, yet they did develop a huge fan base in the early part of the century. Interestingly both have African roots and although they did gain popularity in the roaring twenties in the USA, there is vast and rich history that traces their development from East Africa and Europe (Tango) and in the case of Swing, a close relationship to jazz.
So can Tango, the dance of seduction and love, have a one-night stand with sassy-fun-loving Swing?
According to John and Felicity Flower the answer is a resounding yes and their 55 minute cabaret-style presentation is laced with mini sketches that segue between both dances. The tango sequences are largely performed by the Flowers (both veterans of the form and current NZ champions) while the delightfully joyous swing sequences are performed by Shane Pope, Irene Ireland, Jesse Peeters and Lotus Ferguson.
The Jitterbug Stroll and the Lindy Hop (two classic swing favourites) are delivered exceptionally well, and all four performers bring a joie de vivre to the space that completely changes the energy. The contrast at times is quite forced; and although the exquisite vocal of Chico Zarate offers a beautiful segue between the dance routines, the Swing and Tango worlds seem to clash rather than coalesce. Similarly, Choi Crystal on piano is an excellent accompaniment and soloist, giving a beautiful rendition of Libertango amongst many others, yet her performances too lacked sufficient integration into the larger narrative.
The highlight of the evening is the Pink Panther sequence (my choice of name since there was no programme and the music was instantly recognizable) where all six performers creatively and collaboratively brought the classic lets-steal-some-money-and-hide-from-the-copper gag to life.
Each time the team works with story, the work instantly lifts beyond being merely a beautiful routine; but although there were definitely some ‘moments,’ the show as a whole hasn’t as yet fully integrated all its different elements.
Passion, life and love are woven throughout this work but with a little dramaturgical input this charming selection of acts will be able to deliver a more cohesive and enduring narrative.