There have been some pleasant surprises along the road of Festival Al-Bustan’s exploration of the Spanish and Latin American repertoire this year. The program swerved back into familiar territory Saturday evening with the first of two shows by Tango Metropolis. This music and dance extravaganza is the fruit of collaboration among Daniel Binelli – famed in Argentina and beyond as a virtuoso of the bandoneon (known as the “button accordion” in some circles) – and choreographers Pilar Alvarez and Claudio Hoffmann.
The performative engine of this dynamic show is the five-man ensemble comprised of Binelli himself and seasoned players at the piano, contrabass/harmonica, guitar and violin.
The energy, dexterity and precision demonstrated by Binelli’s ensemble was a pleasure to behold as, by turns, each of the players demonstrated himself to be a virtuoso on his instrument.
The five players chugged and sidled through a musical parabola that ranged from “strict” tango to a handful of jazzier hybrids – a repertoire richly marbled with the compositions of Astor Piazzolla, with whom Binelli performed in Piazzolla’s New Tango Sextet in 1989-90.
In Lebanon, “tango” primarily denotes the dance – indeed the form is so popular here that it has spawned its own festival – and Tango Metropolis is kitted out with a contingent of no less than 10 dancers (five of each sex).
Much of the on-stage movement is more or less what you would expect – pairings-off of dancers of approximately the same height pantomiming tango’s stylized approximation of pre-coital intimacy.
But Tango Metropolis isn’t simply Strictly Ballroom a-la tango. Much of the evening’s choreography was highly theatrical – following the same prototype deployed in “Tango,” Carlos Saura’s 1998 filmic homage to the form and the country that formed it.
The more theatrical moments range over scenarios from the dramatic – testosterone-inflected mock-fight sequences involving thugs – to testosterone-ironic, as four mobile telephone-wielding metrosexual (males) launch into a mid-town tango duet.
There’s a bit of comedy – when the tug-of-war following a thug’s efforts to snatch an old lady’s purse morphs into tango – and virtuosity, as a janitor jury-rigs a tango partner from a mop handle and a broom handle.
Regardless your opinion of how essentially silly tango is as a dance form, the sometimes imaginative choreography, frequent athleticism of the dancers and the persistent, unremitting, excellence of Binelli and his musicians, makes Tango Metropolis a refreshing lesson in the artistic possibilities of the form. – The Daily Star
Festival Al-Bustan continues with “The Keys to Latin America” with Russian pianist Alexander Ghindin. Fore more information, please call 04-972-980.