‘Forever Tango’ isn’t quite bringing sexy back

There is something mysterious about the art of tango. Its music, accentuated by the string pizzicato and the trembling bandoneon (Argentine accordion), seems to echo the rhythm of the heart. Its movement, riddled with embraces and acrobatics, reflects our yearning for sensuality. When done right, tango is not just a dance or a musical genre, but passion personified.

Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” which revived the public interest in Argentine tango and achieved Broadway fame, has been known for inspiring passion since the company’s first performance in San Francisco in 1994. But with its return to the Post Street Theatre this month, “Forever Tango” seems to have lost its spark.

The company sticks to the genre that it coined — tango musical with a mix of arias, theatrical duets, full ensemble pieces and orchestral interludes. There is no set, no narrative and, other than loosely tracing the history of tango, the pieces are not connected. The result is a full focus on the interaction of music and dance.

Yet despite the undoubtedly superb technical skills of the 13 dancers, who all choreographed their own numbers, they often lack that je ne sais quoi that makes a tango — a tango. Although they showed the diversity of styles, from languid to comic to acrobatic, the movements of the couples were often mechanical, as if they were performing just a well rehearsed routine.

Gone were the whirlwind of youthful passion and the I-can’t-take-my-eyes-off-you freshness. In fact, compared with the little noticed, but brilliant Estampas Portenas that performed a similar tango show here in September, the cast of “Forever Tango” seemed a bit … aging.

Some couples, like the talented Jorge Torres and Marcela Duran, used their many years of experience to present a mature, unhurried dance that spoke of a tamer romantic fire. Others still did those impressive acrobatic throws and twirls that earned “Forever Tango” its fame.

Musically, the arias of singer Martin de Leon were truly impressive. The 11-man orchestra, too, played a notable show with well-known favorites like “Jealousy,” showcasing a great solo by pianist Rodion Boshoer.

But looking at the four gray-haired bandoneros — the pride of the orchestra and true remnants of the old world — it was hard not to think of the countless times they have played these tango tunes.Tango, as Torres recently said before a magnificent performance in New York, is all about connection. Sadly, Wednesday’s opening performance of “Forever Tango” was missing just that.

Overall, though, the show remains solid and entertaining. If you are a steadfast fan of Bravo’s company, you may overlook what seems a lack of commitment to true feeling in the performance. But if you are hoping to get inspired by a truly spectacular evening of fire and passion, all you may get is a tango show that is technically superb, but emotionally vacant.

THEATER REVIEW

Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango”

When: 8 p.m. Mondays (except no shows Jan. 8 and 15); 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 2 or 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 21

Where: Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco

Tickets: $65-$100

Contact: (415) 771-6900 or www.poststreettheatre.com

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