What with my current fetish for all things tango (shoes, classes, men), the only logical event to attend last Thursday (despite The Wailers being in town for the second time in six months, Ivory Coast reggae singer Alpha Blondy supporting them, a friend’s band playing downtown plus an invite to a speakeasy) was Nocturna.
Building up to the hottest day of the year on the Friday, a spot under the stars high above the oblivious Recoleta diners was perfect to check out this hour-long tango circus show. Or is that circus tango? Tangus or cirgo, whichever way round it is, Nocturna’s 16-strong cast directed by Gustavo “Mono” Silva have infiltrated the upper-crust neighbourhood to combine these two disciplines remarkably — so much so that I assure you it’s the latest Argentine product fit for export.
Bare-chested men took charge of their saucily dressed partners to dance to the likes of Bajofondo, Gotan Project and Electrocutango, ensuring the show is bang in the 21st century, although more traditional songs were mixed in over the 65 minutes. The six couples, dancing in flat gymnast’s pilmsolls, and the acrobats back-flipping about like loose cannons did, however, require several pairs of eyes just to keep up with their vigorous leaps and bounds.
Having learned to do the tango “walk” in baby beginner’s class last week, watching the same steps take place on a giant rectangular trampoline confirmed that some of us have got it… and some of us haven’t. And the Nocturna cast has it. Other tools-of-the-acrobatic trade included the table-and-chair milonga set-up as well as a seesaw, a trapeze, bendy street-light poles and a giant swing, and the performers made use of everything, climbing, flipping and dancing their way all over them.
Given a moment to shine, the first acrobat up, literally several metres in the air, was Hoop Girl. Like a lady in the moon, she flirted and writhed about for her lover as he waited below, desperate for a touch of her foot, as she took complete control of the hoop and flipped around it. As she turned and spun, so did my stomach. Frankly it was breath-taking, and Hoop Girl’s segment was immaculately performed, all without the artificial flavourings of ropes or harnesses to taint our complete confidence in her skills.
The coquettish mood changed dramatically when Giant Swinging Girl was carried in, funeral procession style, supported atop her colleagues’ sturdy shoulders.
Attached to a safety rope, she was little girl lost, her life cut short, but as she rocked and pushed herself high over the city, carefree, oblivious, she was reliving a special childhood moment. “At any moment she’s going to do a complete 360,” I thought to myself, as she soared to great heights, cheekily flashing her bottom as the wind knowingly whipped up her short skirt.
To keep the female audience members happy, the muscular, often bare-chested men took their turn bouncing and somersaulting via the seesaw, although not quite close enough for my leering eyes. To gain momentum, two started jumping, one on each side, in the style of the Korean game “Nol-ttwigi”, then another acrobat would leap on, giving the first the momentum and height to gyrate through the air and reach the ground perfectly.
The dominant tango-dancing couple also took centre stage and were surrounded by gymnastics and outrageous contortions of the balancing kind. Although it was hard to keep up with all the action, the twosome remained the centre of attention, commanding rapturous applause after their more traditional segment.
But the ultimate crowd pleaser has a rather dubious job title for his CV. Picture the conversation with his parents: “So son, what are you going to do with your law degree?” “Well, dad, I thought I’d be a right-tope talker…” With a face as flexible as his bendy inch-thick wire, this was my ultimate tango and circus combination. Dancing his way lightly, perfectly, with smooth foot moves and his feet dealing with each little groove, the audience was close enough to see Tight Rope Man’s every expression and sweat bead that steamy Thursday evening. But as much as he pretended it was an almost impossible mission, Tight Rope Man was in control of every bouncing, tango move all the way along that impossible-looking rope.
Fabulous fun, a dynamic production and a phenomenal combination of circus techniques and classic tango moves fit for 2010. Tangus? Cirgo? You want to go, that’s for sure.
Where & when: Every Thursday to Sunday until end of April 2010. Centro Cultural Recoleta, Junin 1400.