Watching a beautifully orchestrated tango in motion is to capture a sense of history and passion, a dance that deeply connects the present of a nation to that nation’s past.
It’s a past that Luis Bravo remembers as if it was yesterday, learning about the dance in his native Argentina, the home of the tango.
“It’s an art form that describes the Argentinian culture and the intensity of our culture,” said Bravo. “There is something special about the humanity of two people dancing together, and the intensity of music and the performer. There is no middle position so it is everything or nothing. “
Even though the 59-year-old Bravo is not a dancer, he is a tango legend. His show, the appropriately named “Forever Tango,” has been a Broadway hit and has played throughout the world for more than two decades.
The show has also had a very special relationship with San Francisco, one that will continue throughout the holidays and beyond. “Forever Tango,” featuring Dmitry Chaplin and Anna Trebunskaya, moves into the Herbst Theatre through January 10th. Chaplin, a top 10 finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance,” joins Trebunskaya, one of the professional dancers on “Dancing With the Stars.” A total of 12 dancers and an 10-piece orchestra make up the spectacle of the show.
For Trebunskaya, finding the perfect partner that can lead is key to a tango that is smooth and seductive, the perfect dance where a man must dominate.
“One of the things that is so attractive is the natural movement of the dance and how everything has to happen organically,” said Trebunskaya. “As a female, you really can’t lead. Once you have a man who can really lead you, it’s incredible. In that way, the tango is very exciting.”
For Chaplin, the tango is a dance in every professional ballroom dancer’s arsenal, but the Argentine tango offers much more specificity.
“The number one thing for me is my technique because I’m a pretty tall guy,” said Chaplin. “This tango is a lot closer and intimate, and it’s like a spaghetti with legs, there’s a lot of intertwining.”
Since 1990, an estimated seven million people in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia have seen the show. “Forever Tango” opened on Broadway in 1997 for what was supposed to be an eight-week run. That run turned into a 14-month engagement. And in San Francisco, the show did a 92-week run.
For Bravo, the lasting power of the show has everything to do with the quality of the dancer.
“Every time the show comes into a new market, they bring something totally new,” said Bravo. “It’s a show that requires a very high standard of performers. I don’t think the show has any cracks and every performer gives 100 percent. It’s an intense concept, and that is why the show every time is a completely different version.
“We are there for all of humanity and we give everything we have to the audience. That is a constant over the years.”
Giving everything to the audience might actually feel as if there is a disconnect between the audience and the performers. In order to reach the level of authenticity in the dance, it must be understood that the lack of connection with the audience helps the performers go further.
“We are specifically asked not to pay attention to the audience, not to smile in the routine, don’t break the third wall and to do the dance for your partner and yourself,” said Trebunskaya. “The tango is about a man and a woman and nobody else in the world. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Even though the performers are locked in their own world, Chaplin loves the feel of the audience, whether it’s on television or in a packed theatre.
“Honestly it doesn’t matter if it’s a theatre show or a television show – as long as we are on that stage and get that specific feeling every time I perform, and the audience appreciates it with applause, I can’t even describe how good that feels,” said Chaplin. “It might have made someone’s night and it might have inspired someone to be a dancer, it’s a very special and rewarding feeling.”
Bravo’s career has been filled with special and rewarding feelings, and he will certainly be in San Francisco to enjoy the show he created many years ago, while performing as a cellist in the orchestra. It’s a show that is aptly named, because the tango will only get stronger as the years go by.
“The tango will always exist,” said Bravo. “It will change and mutate, but the tango is forever.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Artbeat, Inc. presents Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango”
Created and directed by Luis Bravo
Featuring Dmitry Chaplin and Anna Trebunskaya
Through Jan. 10th
The Herbst Theatre
401 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
For more information, visit forevertango.org
For tickets, visit cityboxoffice.com
On Twitter: @deForeverTango