Guillermina Quiroga Dance Company
UCLA’s Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA
February 4–5, 2009
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf
Photo by Lois Greenfield, courtesy Guillermina Quiroga Dance Company. Quiroga with longtime partner César Coelho.
There is no denying that Guillermina Quiroga is a gorgeous dancer––leggy, pliant, and dramatically expressive––as her time spent with commercial hits such as Forever Tango has proven. What Quiroga is not, however, is a choreographer or director with anything cohesive or meaningful to say.
In her misguided “Tango, Historias Breves” (Short Stories), the show she created, directed, and choreographed and has been touring with her Buenos Aires-based troupe––eight dancers and five musicians––tango took a back seat to terpsichorean tricks, bad taste, and, well, the bizarre. Beginning with a Cirque du Tango-like duet, Adam y Java, a nearly nude couple languorously embraced behind a scrim to Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” heard on tape.
This head-scratching scene was followed by the equally puzzling Sor Juana’s Dream, with three women––Quiroga, Silvia Toscano, and Deborah Quiroga (no relation)––assuming crucifixion-like poses before being rescued (resurrected?) by a trio of men. The surreal number also served as a showcase for the ballet-trained star and her longtime partner, a beefy César Coelho. When not tossing and spinning his charge about near maniacally, Coelho held her aloft as if she were a Rolls Royce hood ornament.
Where are the judges of Superstars of Dance when you need them?
Happily, smatterings of authenticity surfaced in Festejando, an amusing wedding party narrative. There were comic bits (a perky Toscano with Marcelo Bernadaz as a rubber-legged, drunken guest), a lovely tango-esque waltz performed by Quiroga and Coelho, and articulated footwork served up by Angel Coria and Deborah Quiroga and Martina Martinez and Claudio Ferreyra.
Now this was tango––its roots in social dance, alive with passion and pleasure––that we know and love. Less lovable were the mostly bland musical interludes provided by Cuarteto Cacho Acuna. Though Acuna eventually gained steam on bandoneón, singer Hernan Frizzera’s vocals underwhelmed. As for production values, transitions were awkward, the lighting was second-tier, and the costumes were too often Velveeta-like. Even a masked-ball scenario proved more frivolous than finessed.
Tango is sensuous, its drama inherent. Quiroga’s dancing is decidedly that; her vision, unfortunately, is not.