January 15, 2011
The Golden State Theatre was packed to the nosebleeds Thursday night for an audience with Luis Bravo's Forever Tango traveling dance troupe, about 30 seats shy of the sell-outs recently achieved by Christian acts David Crowder and Jeremy Camp, according to General Manager Bobby Gore. But it was still an impressive turn-out for a $45 to $70 ticket item. Also noteworthy was the fact that the revival theater's tenants, the Monterey Church, would lend the space over to the secular and sensual event—though back in October of 2009, Pastor Bryan James intimated that his church would retain non-Christian programming, though it hasn't been to the degree curated by former operator and current landlord Warren Dewey.
"It's been so long since I've been here," said one Tango patron upon entering the theater's lobby.
Once the audience was shepherded into their seats, Luis Bravo and his Argentinean tango company, featuring Dancing With the Stars two-time champion Cheryl Burke, did not shy away from the gritty origins that gave birth to the South American country's cultural treasure.
After a classy opening overture danced by one couple and backed by the eight-man orchestra, the next program consisted of a hustler, his harem of five women, and four johns (or maybe, in this case, juans) encircling and taking up a woman to "dance," ponying up cash to one of the hustler's lady assistants, who forked it over to him. That piece re-enacted the birth of tango in Argentina's rough and tumble neighborhoods in the late 1800s.
One Spanish-speaking audience member told his companion that the number was "just the beginning."
The rest of the program portrayed the classy, sensual and athletic reputation that tango has since been ascribed, trading sets by duos, the orchestra alone, singer Martin de Leon, and ensembles, culminating in an encore of all the players performing at full peak. Along the way, the show displayed practiced timing and creative force.
Costumes were elegant, colorful and form-fitting, with sequins and flares that accentuated the twirls, spins, kicks and poses of the stylized dance. The orchestra band played a non-stop stream of music, including pieces by Argentinean tango icon Astor Piazzolla and Italian film composer Ennio Morricone. The dances—the highlights of which drew wild applause and even shouts of "Ole!"—ranged from angry passion to melancholy moodiness to gently romantic.
"You have to know when to cling, when to break, and when to get back in step," whispered one distinguished audience member, who said she used to dance tango until 1975. "And you can't have any inhibitions, no. You have to follow the music."
In a downtown recently suppressed by the economy of big entertainment (a notable exception First Night Monterey), Forever Tango proved that with the right show, people will "follow the music"—in impressive fashion.