Sin Salida: Tango meets modern dance

TANGO IS often stereotyped as being a stylized mating dance at best, and at worst an expression of male dominance.

For those who truly appreciate the genre, however, it’s much more than that. It’s an expression of a multitude of emotions, with the backdrop of drama and mystery.

You can experience the full range of tango’s emotions, with a modern sensibility, on April 11 at the Lucas Theatre, as Union Tanguera combines with the Kate Weare Company on their acclaimed collaboration “Sin Salida.”

This first-time collaboration between Weare, a New York-based choreographer, and Esteban Moreno of the French/Argentinian tango troupe Union Tanguera, includes live music by Argentinian composer Gustavo Beytelmann in what’s sure to be one of the most riveting performances to hit the Lucas stage.

The combination of modern dance with tango takes both forms to a new level.

We spoke to Weare and Moreno last week.

Did you fight hard to break out of the usual stereotype of tango as being sort of a shorthand for sex?

Weare: We are definitely escaping the stereotype. Tango is often seen as a "battle between the sexes." But we think it's much more about the complex relationships between people.

Moreno: And not just men and women, but in relationships of all types. I see tango as more sensual than sexual. It’s a drama between a couple, with the sound made by a group. You speak with the tango, and work with the music. The piano player is a composer, a thinker, but an outsider to the dance.

We are merging modern dance with traditional tango. It speaks about people sharing one space, but also able to explore pure forms. It’s not to speak about tango itself, but to speak about the other things it evokes.

It’s about movement. The dance is certainly part of that, but music is also something we can see. When it works, it can make you fly. It can make you dream.

Kate, how did you adjust your choreography to the tango form? Tango is very much about an erect spine and long lines, sort of the opposite of modern dance.

Weare: There is definitely that sense of verticality, whereas modern dance has a lot to do with contact with the ground. The timing and musicality are also very different from modern dance.

I’ve come to greatly appreciate the expertise of tango dancers. The way they use weight, and transition, and timing, has been very fascinating to watch. It can help you understand yourself the more you study how other traditions explore dance.

Modern dancers these days are often questioning the very nature and relevance of music. Tango is a century-old tradition, but in some quarters my tradition of modern dance has rejected music profoundly.

Tango dancers can almost be called musicians. They’re revealing sound themselves, and are deeply connected to musicality as they dance.

To be clear, there is live accompaniment to your dance?

Moreno: It's mostly live accompaniment, with some recordings of tango standards from the '40s and '50s. It's full of moments of intensity, sometimes slow and building.

Weare: There are five dancers: three tango, and 2 modern, with one piano player.

What got you two together and inspired you to do this?

Weare: Our agent actually got us together. He knew both of our work and knew of my interest in tango. I have a lot of respect for the traditional form even though I come at it as a choreographer. We had a process in California where we worked together to come up with this performance.

Give me the quick pitch on why this show is special and people should come see it.

Weare: You'll see an enormous range of emotional color along with some exquisite dancing.

Moreno: There’s a lot of mystery in this show! It’s all about tension and release. Rhythm is everything in tango – along with unpredictability.