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Dance review: Tango Buenos Aires’ 'Fire and Passion of Tango' at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

January 15, 2011 |  1:12 pm

The Argentine troupe Tango Buenos Aires featured requisite slinking, slithering and strutting, as five couples hooked up, broke up and eventually reunited onstage Friday at the recently renamed Segerstrom Center for the Arts. But what the company didn’t offer in its show, “Fire and Passion of Tango” (repeating Saturday and Sunday), was any kind of sustained heat and ardor, sexy costumes, an inspired set or visionary direction and choreography.

Sure, the 10 dancers were technically skilled, providing fleeting moments of sizzle and virtuosity, but something’s amiss when bandoneón player Martin Sued receives the loudest applause. Seriously, the five-piece band, under Emilio Kauderer’s musical direction, cooked in works by tangomeister Astor Piazzolla and others, but the dancers often seemed unconnected to the sultry sounds.  

Beginning with the full company in unison mode, main dancer Cynthia Avila soon doffed her shoes and tacky red dress to reveal a teddy. Slipping into soft shoes, the soloist with a slight -- but spooky -- resemblance to Spider-Woman, executed a series of arabesques and jazz-like moves that could have escaped from TV’s, “So You Think You Can Dance.”  After re-dressing, she was joined by partner Demián García in a duet featuring sleek dips and whiplash turns before they made their way to a salon.

There, Maria Lujan Leopardi and Esteban Simon managed some emotional fervor and technical fireworks, with him holding her aloft as if she were a ship’s bow.  Too bad their costumes were lavender and beige, detracting from the inherent darkness of the dance.  On the flip side, the comedic coupling of Florencia Mendez and Pedro Zamin appealed with a series of deep splits imposed on a goofy-faced Mendez by her haplessly rubber-legged partner.

Trouble arrived when Avila, who entered weaving and brandishing a bottle, spotted Mauricio Celis entwined with Inés Cuesta. Celis’ one-arm lifts impressed, as did their unison kick-steps, driving Avila into the other girls’ arms, an intriguing but undeveloped concept.  Later, the five men also danced together, providing jolts of testosterone amid kneeling spins and sharp turns.

Because Susana Rojo’s choreography lacked depth, and because there was little sense of doomed love or angst (Buenos Aires is, purportedly, the psychoanalytic capital of the world), this proved to be tango lite.

-- Victoria Looseleaf

Tango Buenos Aires repeats at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. $16-$80.  (714) 556-2787. 

Photo: Cynthia Avila and Demian Garcia in Tango Buenos Aires. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times