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Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble - Tangos…for La Milonga

by Jennifer Wesnousky
May 6, 2005
Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 840-2824

Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble - Tangos…for La Milonga


Presented by: The Town Hall
Not Just Jazz series.

Musical director, arrangements and bandoneon: Rómulo Larrea
First violin: François Pilon
Violin: Frédéric Lefebvre
Viola: Marie-Claire Cousineau
Cello: Sheila Hannigan
Double Bass: Denis Chabot
Piano: Stéphane Aubin
Vocals: Verónica Larc
Tango dancers: Cecilia Saia & Ronen Khayat, Sandra Antognazzi & Carlos Yannacañedo, Carolina Jaurena & Yvan Terrazas
Choreographic direction/group choreographies: Cecilia Saia & Ronen Khayat
Lighting design: Pierre Lavoie, John Gordon
Sound design: Luc Maltais
Program notes: Pamela Larrea
Stage Manager: Charles J. Dishian
Technical supervisor: William Dehling
Artistic director: Lawrence Zucker

By Jennifer E. Wesnousky
May 6, 2005

At one point during the performance of the Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble's Tangos…for La Milonga at Town Hall on Friday, May 6, 2005, Mr. Larrea recounted how Astor Piazzolla himself, with whom he once had the opportunity to work, would most surely approve of their repertoire, which incorporates a string quartet with the traditional tango trio of instruments (double bass, piano and famed bandoneon). And yet, Argentine tango traditionalists can still be heard disputing whether Piazzolla's music, as well as the nuevo tango steps being bandied about both onstage and in today's milongas (tango dances), are "truly tango." Regardless, as the cast performed a myriad of both traditional and modern tango tunes and steps, this well-rounded evening of music, song and dance captured Argentine tango's most essential and authentic elements: presence, camaraderie and connection.

The evening exploded with a musical medley featuring the entire cast of Tangos…for La Milonga. The three tango couples strutted onto the stage, the men suave in suits and the women stunning in maroon, high-slitted attire, the first of the evening's alluring costumes. As the dancers' boleos marked the music's sharp chords in one of several well-orchestrated group numbers, dancers Cecilia Saia and Ronen Khayat demonstrated their choreographic talents, making visually-pleasing use of the small space in front of the orchestra which remained onstage throughout the performance. When, in an all-male showdown sequence, Khayat sent his colleague, Yvan Terrazas flying, the audience, who seemed to comprehend the nuances of Argentine tango, responded enthusiastically. Later, they roared with laughter during a comical "birthday dance" segment in which Khayat's reluctance to part with the birthday girl, dancer Carolina Jaurena, left her partner with only the song's final note.

Of Uruguayan origin, musical director, arranger and bandoneon player, Rómulo Larrea, was the epitome of humility as he proudly announced his ensemble's premiere "on Broadway." Consistently present during the performance, he incorporated his entire body and being into each and every note. His spontaneous speeches to the audience revealed his passion and appreciation for Argentine tango in all of its forms, past and present. And yet, despite his reverent demeanor, Larrea's ability to transmit his love for a century of Argentine tango music, while remaining in the moment, managed to consistently steal the show.

That being said, the audience's eyes, ears and hearts could not be torn from female vocalist, Verónica Larc, each time she stepped center stage. More smoldering in each piece, her throaty, gritty belt reached its peak during Nostalgias. At another point, she paid verbal homage to famed Argentine tango crooner, Carlos Gardel, before launching into her superb, stylized rendition of Mi Buenos Aires Querido. Moving as sensually as she sang, Ms. Larc seemed completely comfortable with the stage and with herself.

The superb ensemble's musical renditions were not only interactive, but both personal and personable. This was especially apparent in El Día Que Me Quieras and Adios Nonino, which allowed the audience to experience the individual units of this beautiful whole. Particularly poignant were the bellow of the lovely Sheila Hannigan's cello, François Pilon's first violin and Stéphane Aubin's piano solos, after which the audience went wild.

And, despite the dancers' individual abilities to command any stage onto which they might step, their presence always complimented and never competed with the orchestra or one another. While Carlos Yannacañedo and Sandra Antognazzi maintained lithe lines throughout the evening's most acrobatic lifts and leaps, rising star Terrazas and partner, Jaurena, seemed perfectly suited for one another, his intensity complimenting her coy grace. Saia's smile dazzled the public, her legs seeming to extend for miles in 9 de julio as, exhibiting a gamut of expressions from playful to passionate, she went to technical and emotional extremes. Later, in La Bordona, Saia and Khayat were the essence of musicality and connection, seeming to dance in spite of themselves and one another as they aesthetically explored some ambiguous psychological conundrum.
While undoubtedly the most important ingredient for a successful tango partnership, or indeed any sort of artistic expression, the teamwork experienced by the audience of Rómulo Larrea's Tangos…for La Milonga on May 6th has been too little seen in productions of this sort. It was no wonder then that following the orchestra's best energy of the evening in Escualo and the dancers' precise execution of rhythmically complex unison sequences in Milonga de mis amores, the audience stood to its feet to beg for more. For, although a tango lover or two was definitely present in the audience that evening, it quickly became clear that even non tango-aficionados could not help but to fall in love with Mr. Larrea and his vision; rooting for a talented, creative cast who were clearly rooting for one another.


Ronen and Cecilia

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