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The backdrop of a Tango - Passion sizzles then fizzles

From: Author: Date:2008-05-11 Click:


The passionate tango from Argentina has enjoyed its share of popularity with Hollywood hits danced by Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies, and Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in Shall We Dance.

This film also inspired Passion, a production brought together by two of the most respected artistes in Malaysia’s performing arts scene: director Joe Hasham and choreographer Judimar Hernandez.

The dance drama, held last weekend at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, featured a cast of Malaysia’s more popular performing artistes – apart from Hernandez herself (as Laura) – including Joseph Gonzales (Maestro), Aris Kadir (Mario), Amy Len (Elena), Steve Goh (Young Man), Elaine Pedley, Nell Ng, Lou Chi Yu, and Thou Chun (dancers) and Dalili Azahari (student).

The dance format was contemporary: for the most part, it was tango without shoes, signalling liberation from the clutches of tradition. It was also not tango per se but drew from the essence of the dance heavily as a metaphor of human weaknesses.

From left: Elena (Amy Len), the Young Man (Goh) and Laura (Hernandez) are caught in tangled relationships. – Photos by KELAB SHASHIN FOTOGRAFI KL

The tango is a dance of sensual exchange: it is sexy, promiscuous and predatory. Its couplings and sudden isolations portray the complexities in gender relations.

Tango’s innate physicality is in the interlacing of legs and the balancing of bodies as they collide. There is also the element of control and surrender – the man leads and the woman is led. Yet there is also mutual dependence as two figures glide across the dance floor with legs dovetailing salaciously.

Tango has both a light and sinister side. Of the two, the dark aspect was more thoroughly lubricated in the show to ejaculate powerful, passionate expressions. And so, under Hasham’s direction, the narrative thread that tied the whole performance together explored the meaning of “passion” beyond the simple love triangle of requited and unrequited love; and going beyond safe, vanilla lives.

The plot: Mario, the principal dancer of a dance company is desperately in love with Laura. From the first moment he lays eyes on her he knows that he wants her. For two years, they have the most passionate of relationships but one night, for reasons that Mario cannot comprehend, Laura announces that the relationship is over. Mario is devastated.

The story is set in a dance studio, similar to that in Saura’s Tango, where the company is in rehearsal for a major production.

Mario sees his lost relationship reflected in everything that happens during rehearsals: he sees a competitor in the Young Man and tries to find solace in the sensuous and mysterious Elena.

In the dance studio scenes, it was clear that not every dancer had the flair for tango: a certain “stiffness” persists. “Sexy” is just who you are and not what you try to do.

The smouldering sultriness of tango came (not from the swivelling of tight behinds but) from the passionate embrace of dance partners Laura and “the young man”, whose faces were pressed intimately together and whose entwined bodies delighted in sensual caresses.

The music evoked an air of romance with just a tinge of sadness, characterising frustrated love; in which the only reprieve was release through wild abandon. However, this scene, which had Mario looking on with burning jealousy, could have been more erotic had the Young Man fully reciprocated.

Hernandez and Goh in Passion, directed by Joe Hasham.

Mario, disgusted with the coupling act, conveyed the feeling of pain through the quiet poise of tango, and showed his indignation through crisp footwork and aristocratic elegance.

Elena was portrayed as the slut that goes for any man, or woman – first Mario, then the Maestro and, lastly, Laura.

The ending was therefore, predictable. Laura was much better off in a heterosexual role versus a homosexual one.

The relationship between Elena and Laura was more sisterly than intense, ending the drama with a fizzle rather than a climax that was supposed to follow the passionate ”foreplay”.


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