Dancer and director German Cornejo has said that he wants to break away from standard tango show formats, and with Immortal Tango he has certainly succeeded. It is a head-spinning mix of cabaret, variety, rock gig, pantomime, cruise-ship entertainment and fantasy fashion parade. One minute you’re transfixed by the switchblade footwork of a precision-tooled duet between Cornejo and regular partner Gisela Galeassi, the next you’re watching a gaggle of 1920s debutantes on a picnic excursion getting all jazz-age with their beaux. Then their governess (Carlos Debat, in drag) suddenly has a turn as a kind of Argentinian Widow Twankey. There’s a fleeting feathery number à la Folies Bergère, a macho tango match, and a ballerina wafts among sinister, crimson-cowled men in an entirely unexpected mashup of the Dying Swan and the Masque of the Red Death.
a ballerina wafts among sinister, crimson-cowled men in an entirely unexpected mashup of the Dying Swan and the Masque of the Red Death
The music, played live by a versatile band, also careens along like a pinball. Tango standards La Cumparsita and Libertango alternate with torch songs, hits from Abba and Coolio, and a tranche of power ballads from films such as Skyfall and Titanic, belted out with gusto by vocalist Antonela Cirillo.
Two elements just about hold the show together. One is the women’s costumes (the men’s are mostly variations on the suit), which change practically every scene and include funeral chic, frocks with frothy trains, busty PVC corsetry, spacey gold lamé tassles and stripy kneesocks matched with frilly camiknickers. Tango’s sexual innuendos bring out the erotic role-playing implicit in all this dressing-up.
The other element is the dancing itself. Choreographic invention jostles fiercely with the showbiz cliché, and though the seven couples sometimes feel like dance-bots, with little time for poetry or emotional nuance, they nevertheless command attention for their high technical skill, with split-second scissor-kicks, vertiginous lifts, spiking footwork and spiralling spines. They, and the musicians, deserve a better, less frenetic show.