During the grand finale of Flamenco Loves Tango, moans of pleasure rose from the audience. The performers already had whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their showy acrobatics, but the show’s final climax elicited responses not often heard within the Lobero’s walls.
Most of the dancers and musicians brought together for this Prima Tango production, jointly sponsored by the consulate and Cafe Buenos Aires in Santa Barbara, were Argentineans living or working in Los Angeles. Although many of these performers were adept at both flamenco and tango, this was not a fusion of genres, but a presentation in which each style kept its integrity.
The curtains opened on a six-piece orchestra of strings and bandone³n, with a flamenco singer and palmero sitting by. They played against a continuously shifting backdrop projection of the Buenos Aires cityscape. The music, led by tango violinist Laura Hackstein of Santa Barbara, was so dynamic and emotional that before the first number was through, audience members were nostalgic for a city some of them had never even visited.
Enter the flamenco: Lead female dancer Celina Zambon walked to the edge of the stage and stared briefly at the audience before launching into a solo with a bright red scarf. After a while, she started emitting excited little yelps and then, just when it seemed that she must be exhausted, she stopped, pushed back her hair, and started in again as though she had just been warming up. It was a crowd-pleaser.
The story then unfolded of a courtship between Zambon’s character, Luna, and a tango dancer named Juan, danced with predatory grace by Jorge Visconti, who also choreographed, directed, and wrote Flamenco Loves Tango. The story is told through dance, but also in quite torrid program notes penned by Visconti. We read, for example, that in Act II, Luna and Juan “give loose rein to their instincts and know Love without limit!” In a brief interview later, Visconti claimed that the story is based on the true life romance between himself and Zambon.
Following the performance, the three dozen or so cast members repaired to Cafe Buenos Aires, where they continued to tango for hours. Less exhibitionist than the gasp-inducing stage moves, this offstage dancing actually was a far more effective display of the seductive play of legs and feet, electric pauses, and slow leans that make the tango one of the world’s sexiest dances.