Cherkaoui Takes on Tango
Homage and innovation pair seductively in choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M!longa, a refreshing exploration of tango’s essence, opening tonight at New York City Center after premiering to rave reviews in London in 2013. Ten dancers and an onstage band move beyond tango’s classic male-female dynamic to explore the yearning and melancholy beneath the passion in solos, a male trio, ensembles and thrilling male/female duets. Cherkaoui has cast both contemporary dancers and leading Argentinian tango artists like German Cornejo, who lend authenticity and presence to the piece’s many moods. DM recently interviewed Cornejo, 28, about dancing in the show:
M!longa capture tango’s essence?
It shows the most important thing about the tango: connection and intimacy. It’s two bodies breathing at the same time, giving all from one partner to another.
How long have you been performing tango?
I started at 10, and have been a professional dancer since I was 14. Along the years, I studied ballet, contemporary dance and jazz in order to complete my formation as a dancer.
Why do you think Cherkaoui chose to explore the tango idiom?
He’s trying to prove the purity of the genre from a more emotional place, on occasion using clichés and other ideas to go beyond the superficial. He worked intensely with each of us, allowing for the development of a wide range of expressive possibilities within the “tango” of each couple. This allowed for the creation of different sides of this popular dance form.
What do you hope that audiences take away from the piece?
I hope the audience can see that tango is more than serious faces and criss-crossing legs. Rather, it is an oasis for human contact, a communication channel in an increasingly mechanized society that mourns the lack of contact.
What drew you to tango?
Well, many things. At first I felt in love with the wealth of music, and tango’s intensity and mystery. Then, I was completely trapped by the complexity of the dance and at the same time the simplicity of the embrace of another person. The tango is a one-way trip: Once you know it, you will not want to leave it anymore.