Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui brings a sizzling showcase of tango to Sadler’s Wells, with ten dancers taking to the stage like scorpions in mating season. The show is conceived as a trip to a traditional dance hall – the milonga of the title – set in some distant barrio of Buenos Aires. It’s a conceit that allows Cherkaoui to mix the traditional sensuousness associated with the dance with other less obvious moods that make up the average Friday night. Besides passion we see rejection, coercion, haughty women, jealous men, the loneliness of a girl out of step. We also get comic relief in the form of an oafish tourist whose desire to dance is a long way short of her skill.
These different textures allow for unusual steps – a tango back to back for example or elements of ballet, acrobatics and jazz woven in. And it’s not just couples battling it out for dominance – there are group dances and threesomes, one all male (though it’s hard to tell whether they are fighting or flirting).
This novel approach to the choreography is matched by the staging which contrasts a dark subtle simplicity with bursts of colourful video projection. This is mostly well-judged by designer Eugenio Szwarcer, though the Minority Report style manipulation of photos is a faintly silly gimmick.
The on-stage orchestra adds more to the woozy atmosphere of the late night Milonga, for an hour you might actually believe you are in a club on the edge of town.
Milonga is on until 10 November 2013 at Sadler’s Wells. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.