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Tango After Dark review at Peacock Theatre, London – ‘technically impressive’

Scene from Tango After Dark at Peacock Theatre, London Scene from Tango After Dark at Peacock Theatre, London
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In the week of the Beast from the East, the prospect of some Buenos Aires heat, courtesy of German Cornejo’s Tango After Dark, is a welcome one.

It’s a show that displays the talents of five couples, set to music by Astor Piazzolla (originator of the jazz-inflected Nuevo Tango style) played live by a slick onstage band.

The show is largely enjoyable fare. But for all the dancers’ technical accomplishment and diverting costume changes (spangles and satin galore), the show exposes the limitations of the dance form in terms of straightforward theatrical entertainment, away from its organic social roots or the competition circuit.

Cornejo – also dancing with partner and co-choreographer Gisela Galeassi – gives us swirling group numbers and duets that move between languorous legato and frenetic staccato on stiletto heels, but little is expressed beyond various shades of pre-coital tension: sometimes it’s a bit more rueful, sometimes more explicitly randy.

Over two and a half hours this becomes slightly wearisome, especially when the eroticism on offer is tango’s traditionally hetero-normative brand, in which the man is a brooding, besuited ‘leader’ and his female partner a pliant ‘follower’ with her pants often on display.

Galeassi, as one half the show’s alpha couple, gets premium undercarriage exposure, via a flashy one-handed lift in which she pushes her legs past a 180-degree split. Cornejo and Galeassi also dish out the speediest of speedy footwork, their interlacing lower legs flicking like the tongues of lascivious lizards.

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Technically impressive, if sometimes slightly tedious, tango show features a live band and hardworking dancers