Cuarteto Tanguero presents: ‘Tango Insomnia’ at DPAC
Kathy Minko | Monday, September 14, 2015
On Saturday evening, ladies and gentlemen of all ages celebrated a fantastic Irish win by attending Cuarteto Tanguero’s Tango Insomnia night at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC).
The four talented men of Cuarteto Tanguero consisted of a bass cellist, a pianist, a violinist and a bandoneón player. The bandoneón, a folk instrument popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Lithuania, resembles an accordion, on which the musician plays a keyboard while stretching the instrument back and forth. Accompanied by the instrumentalists, a pair of world-renowned tango professionals — Fernanda Ghi and her partner Guillermo Merlo — performed a series of dances throughout the show. The dancers, nominees for the 1998 Tony Awards, exhibited complex sets of choreography, constantly drawing the audience’s eyes to their legs and feet.
The musicians’ performance told the story of a typical night in Buenos Aires. Structured around five different time zones, the concert included emotional tunes relevant to each stage in the night.
After their first two songs, the group explained an ordinary night within the Argentinian city. The quartet’s co-founder — bandoneón extraordinaire Ben Bogart — relayed how each hour was structured. After narrating the events of an early evening, the band played quick-tempo tunes revealing the bustle of city life during rush hour. To emphasize, the tango pair danced quickly and frantically, as if conveying the emotion of navigating through city life. Furthermore, the technical producer’s utilization of bright light directly correlated to the Buenos Aires’ sunshine.
Upon completing their first set, the group smoothly transitioned into their second set of songs, corresponding to a different time of the day. According to the men, this point of the night consisted of food and fun, with light-hearted emotion and little tango dancing. Instead, the songs slowed to a waltz, which related to the slow, elegant pace at this point in the evening.
With the lights completely dimmed, the performers began their “midnight” trio of songs. Leaving the audience entranced with suspense, both the band’s melody and the dancers’ rhythm conveyed the dramatic emotion of an Argentinian midnight. The quartet’s performance of “Invierno Porteño” musically described the gentle, yet romantic mood of winter. Similarly, the tango duo’s interpretive moves told a story to the reader: a man badly wanting to impress the woman he finds beautiful. The pair’s seductive techniques emphasize love’s passion, which the two ultimately find in the end.
After midnight, the still-dim lights mirror the night’s duration. This time, however, the band’s quick, upbeat rhythms reflected those of the most talented dancers within Buenos Aires during prime performing times. The tango artists executed passionate dance moves, enticing their audience to keep a close eye on their fast feet. This aspect of the night invigorated the crowd by infusing ironically loud, happy tempos into a dark, late evening.
Finally, the morning hit. As the group made a verbal transition signifying the beginning of a new day, the lights grew brighter. The performers’ interpretations of this early-morning hour — both musically and through dance — mirrored the newfound energy of another day. The tango duo’s last performance, which brought audience members to their feet, resolved their love’s mystery. The man, who had tried to woo this woman throughout the night’s events, finally won her over. This happily-ever-after ending, mixed with light-hearted tango music, made for a fantastic finale as well as calls for an encore.
The Cuarteto Tanguero, with their ingenious compositions and interpretations, truly highlighted an iconic element of Latin American culture. Teaching a student Spanish grammar and vocabulary is one thing, but to show the the culture makes a long-lasting impact. Overall, this performance of magical dance and music provided a uniquely artistic opportunity to experience firsthand a night in the beautiful Argentinian city.