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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 15 DECEMBER 2013 — Sultry, sensual and decidedly provocative and sexy, these fast-moving, long-legged Argentinian girls, most notably Graciela Caro, Marcela Vespasiano, Silvia Fuentes, and Natalia Patyn as well as the sensational Mora Godoy, a South American style Cyd Charisse, were really something very special. From the moment they glided on stage in Chantecler Tango, created last year in Buenos Aires, it was impossible to tear one’s eyes away from them, even to follow the guys, who were pretty impressive themselves. For over an hour and a half, these charismatic artists mesmerized a bemused Parisian audience with their danced representation of male-female seduction.

Mora Godoy Tango Company in Chantecler Tango

The performance opens in Buenos Aires in 1924 in front of the famous night-club, "Chantecler", the greatest cabaret of the 1930’s and 1940’s, showing a replica of the building’s original façade created by designer Julieta Ascar.  Following the career of the French-born dancer, La Ritana, interpreted by Godoy, thirty dancers and musicians are about to relive the golden age of tango. The show pays tribute to the tango dancers, the musicians, poets and orchestra conductors whose passions and love-affairs were played out against a background of violence, crime, and underground activity before the club was closed down in 1957 and demolished three years later.

The danced story-line, which oscillates between scenes set in contemporary Buenos Aires and those, more nostalgic, of its glorious past, has been inspired by true events, for besides Ritana, two other famous characters from Chantecler appear: Angel Sanchez Carreno, the master of ceremonies, and the orchestra conductor, El Rey, the King of Rhythm. The alternating scenes between the joyful parties of the past and the greyness of the present allow Godoy to blend together historical tango with a contemporary, original score by the Argentinian composer, Gerardo Gardelin. Tangoes dating back to the 1930’s are based on music by Antonio Rodio, Mario Melfi, and Rafael Iriarte, scores chosen by Godoy’s brother, Horatio, responsible for the choice of music as well asbeing the ‘narrator ‘ of the story in the role of the Cuban prince.

Mora Godoy Tango Company in Chantecler Tango

In between spectacular scenes of the dancers rehearsing, Godoy has interspersed a violent pas de trois, a passionate danced altercation between El Rey, his mistress Alma, and wife Margot, interpreted respectively by Ariel Perez, Marcela Vespasiano, and Gracielo Calo, all superb. There is also a heart-stopping love-scene between Ritana and her lover, Amador, interpreted by the remarkable Marcos Ayala. Ritana, we are reminded, is a femme fatale who arouses passions, desire and jealousy. 

Mora Godoy Tango Company in Chantecler Tango

Interestingly, the origins of tango go back to the slums of Buenos Aires, where it was based on dances brought by African slaves in the 1860’s. First considered a marginal art, it then caught on as a form of ball-room dancing before being popularized and shown in theatres around the world today by troupes such as the Mora Godoy Tango Company formed in 2002 by the Argentinian choreographer and dancer, considered as the greatest interpreter of tango today. Moreover, most of these outstanding dancers beginning with Godoy herself, appearing on stage in France for the first time, have been classically trained before concentrating on tango, which goes in part to explain the exceptional grace of their movements.

Mora Godoy Tango Company in Chantecler Tango

The spectacle, the result of tireless reconstruction around authentic documents and archives and photographs lent by Ritana’s own nephews, now in their 90’s, is musical comedy at its highest level. One leaves with only one desire; to join in one of the proposed initiations to tango offered by the dancers on certain evenings, either before or after the spectacle, preferably with a pair of Neo Tango’s exquisite shoes under one’s arm.

Based in Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque. She last wrote on the choreographer Trisha Brown.

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