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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Performance Reviews
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Argentine Tangos
Town Hall
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Pablo Aslan's Avantango presents New York Tango: Piazzolla & Beyond

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 14, 2003
Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 840-2824

About the Author:

Pablo Aslan's Avantango presents New York Tango: Piazzolla & Beyond


Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street

World Music Institute
Erwin Frankel Productions

Production Management by Sounds Like Art, Inc.

Musicians: Pablo Aslan, Bass; Hector Del Curto, Bandoneón; Oscar Feldman, Saxophone; Fernando Otero, Piano; Leonardo Suarez-Paz, Violin; Diego Urcola, Trumpet; Roxana Fontan, Vocal.

Dancers: Diego DiFalco, Carolina Zokalski, Valeria Solomonoff, Antonio "Junior" Cervila, Mariela Franganillo, Valetango (Heather Gehring, Ney Melo, Rebecca Shulman, Santiago Steele).

Costume Designer: Alicia Mugetti; Lighting Designer: Tyler Micoleau; Production Coordinator: Alexandra Aron.

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 14, 2003


Tanguedia III, by Astor Piazzolla

Escualo, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: DiFalco and Zokalski

Deus Xango, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Cervila and Solomonoff

Sublevados, by Fernando Otero

Malena, by Lucio Demare and H. Manzi
Singer: Roxana Fontan

Contame Una Historia, by Eladia Blazquez and A. Iaquinandi
Singer: Roxana Fontan

Sabateando, by Pablo Aslan

Verano Porteño, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Cervila and Solomonoff

Otoño Porteño, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: DiFalco and Zokalski

Invierno Porteño, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Solomonoff, Cervila, and Valetango

Primavera Portena, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Cervila and Franganillo

Tango Dervish, by Pablo Aslan

Zum, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancer: Solomonoff

Adios Nonino, by Astor Piazzolla and Eladia Blazquez
Singer: Roxana Fontan

Muerte Del Angel, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Cervila and Franganillo

Trollermaster, by Fernando Otero

Michelangelo 70, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: DiFalco and Zokalski

Libertango, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Ensemble

Pablo Aslan gave New York a Valentine's gift of exquisite and scintillating music and dancing at Town Hall, a totally sold-out event. With the collaboration of World Music Institute and Erwin Frankel Productions, Aslan and his musicians and dancers, many of whom have been widely featured on ExploreDance.com for many months, in candids at Argentine Tango Workshops and Milongas, as well as in Interviews, presented an extremely exciting and aesthetically fulfilling performance. In fact, the music of Astor Piazzolla has been featured in ExploreDance.com in Interviews of Binelli/Ferman and Ziegler, in Reviews of Binelli/Ferman at the Consulate, Ziegler at Jazz Standard, David Parsons Dance Company, and in the candids at La Belle Epoque and La Boca, which feature Fernando Otero, Pablo Aslan, Leonardo Suarez-Paz, Hector Del Curto, Junior Cervila, and Roxana Fontan.

You should browse our Argentine Tango List to see some of these dancers and musicians, as well as so many other talented performers. Our Review of Toshiko Akiyoshi's Jazz Orchestra at Birdland shares her own version of The Four Seasons, in contrast to those composed by Vivaldi and, in this case, as performed by Avantango, those Four Seasons composed by Piazzolla. Our many Reviews of Swango also refer to Piazzolla's music, as does the Review of Gidon Kremer's Concert at Carnegie Recital Hall. In addition, we have Workshop Photos and an Interview with Carolina Zokalski and Diego DiFalco, as well as an Interview with Mariela Franganillo.

The Tangos presented in Avantango, choreographed in duets, in solo, in a small group, and even in acrobatic fashion, were each highly professional and extremely well rehearsed. These dancers, most of whom I know on a personal basis, have the capacity to perform such a venture on several nights, not just for a one-time-only performance, as this was on Valentine's Eve. I also know most of the musicians, and Pablo Aslan, Hector Del Curto, Fernando Otero, and Leonardo Suarez-Paz are often seen performing in Tango Milongas and special Tango events. We know them as colleagues and as friends. Oscar Feldman and Diego Urcola are less well known, but would now be most welcome at any Tango event of which I'm familiar.

To see this dim stage, which almost seemed lit like a dark Club in Buenos Aires, with the composite of musicians and dancers, not to mention the very remarkable Roxana Fontan, whose voice could warm the coldest and snowiest New York night, with her clear, strong, yet vibrant and often mellow tones. Ms. Fontan took command of this stage, and I almost was unaware of the musicians, at times, who created a particularly sensitive, yet resonating backdrop to her rendition of Malena. In fact, Aslan played a solo bass, quite moving and melodic, in the background, to enhance those passages in Malena.

Ms. Zokalski and Mr. DiFalco were completely focused, and Ms. Zokalski's costumes, with waist-high side slits, were sexy and sassy, yet classic and characteristic of her lightning quick movements, so seasoned with years of practice with her business partner/dance partner/husband, Diego DiFalco. Ms. Zokalski and Mr. DiFalco are true professionals, with perfect timing, an obvious love of the dance, and a rare connection in their steady partnership, one that allows them to teach and perform together, worldwide. They are a perfect match—physically, emotionally, and choreographically, for this level of rapid and passionate Tango. In Michelangelo 70, one of my favorite pieces, these two went wild.

Ms. Franganillo and Mr. Cervila brought the house down, with acrobatic spins and leaps and wild gymnastics, with Ms. Franganillo's signature encircling of her partner, with one leg practically swirling on the floor. She was dragged, tossed, carried, and catapulted, all the while in seamless choreography, as if these two were in defiance of gravity, and in the presence of the amazing music of such talented maestros. In fact, Ms. Franganillo's husband, Hector Del Curto, played a sensational solo on bandoneón, during the exact passage of her most amazing dancing. This was a rare moment for those of us connected to the Tango community, as it was Valentine's Day, and Hector was serenading Mariela so miraculously. Yet, the general audience would never have known, as she was completely focused on Mr. Cervila, who is muscular, versatile, and one of the most exciting Tangueros performing in New York.

As it happened, Mr. Cervila had an injury, during this dance, and kept dancing, throughout the performance. Primavera Porteña, also danced by Ms. Franganillo and Mr. Cervila, was almost equally as exciting, and one would never have known that they could soon upstage themselves, with even more extreme feats.

Mr. Cervila danced with Ms. Solomonoff, as well, who performs in a different style. She was sensual and talented, and I have seen this duo perform a few times at the Milongas. Ms. Solomonoff is quite comfortable with Mr. Cervila, and they are also extremely good partners, as was apparent in Deus Xango. Ms. Solomonoff's solo was balletic in style and quite freewheeling. I would have liked to see it carried to another, more complex level. Her Valetango Group could use more exciting choreography, given the nature of Invierno Porteño. However, they were technically skillful, interestingly costumed, and in somewhat, thematic style with the Piazzolla motif and music.

Important to note, once more, is the outstanding performance of Ms. Fontan. I just cannot wait to hear her sing again, as she added such a classy and classical quality to this memorable production. Her romantic, off-shoulder, burgundy dress was almost as exciting as her mellifluous voice. Her other costume, all black lace, was a dress one would expect to see onstage in Argentina.

However, most important to note about Pablo Aslan's Avantango is the quality of the six musicians, each of whom could have held the stage with a solo performance, and all of whom, together as one group, brought the audience to its feet. Pablo Aslan is founder and co-director of New York-Buenos Aires Connection and New York Tango Trio. He has performed with jazz musicians and major, classical orchestras. Aslan's own composition for bass, Sabateando, was rare and one that must be heard in concert halls and jazz venues. He slaps the side of his bass for percussion and uses his bow and strings to the fullest and most earthy effects. Within the group, during those passages that called for bass, he provided the fireplace, on a cold, Valentine's night in New York. As a bandleader, Aslan was clearly in charge, center stage, without any obvious conducting or overt eye contact with his musicians. This was an EXTREMELY well rehearsed band of six.

Hector Del Curto is a master bandoneonist, who actually played with Piazzolla, Osvaldo Pugliese (Tango Orchestral leader and musician), and Julio Bocca (See Early ABT Stage Door Candids). Del Curto's timing was unbelievable, and the exchanging of musical themes, back and forth, depending on the song, between piano, bandoneón, violin, saxophone, trumpet, and bass was extremely exciting. Del Curto's capacity to spread his tones and reach a new, cutting edge of sound, that transcends the usual Piazzolla renditions (Piazzolla, himself, was the bandoneonist with his own musicians), created a new concept for this genre of music. Del Curto embodied Piazzolla, himself, head bent in the same manner, cradling the instrument that filled this massive auditorium.

Fernando Otero, pianist, composer, and arranger, has performed in over 30 countries and appeared at Carnegie Hall. Tonight, Otero played his solo passages with enormous electricity and vitality. His own composition, Sublevados, was wild and a combination of Tango, jazz, and New Age in tempo and tone. I have enjoyed his music many times, at various Tango Milongas, and onstage it once again totally held its own. I happen to love Otero's music and look forward to an upcoming interview, soon to be announced.

Leonardo Suarez-Paz, who has toured the globe with renowned Tango productions, has performed with classical and jazz orchestras, and is widely recorded, sported his signature, gypsy scarf and evoked the music that was formerly played by his father, Fernando Suarez-Paz, Piazzolla's own violinist. Suarez-Paz is a highly accomplished violinist, and, in this presentation, both in solos and in blended band passages, he provided another cutting edge quality, as did his musical colleagues, to heighten the excitement and inspire the dancers, as well to create an ambiance of wild, new sound. Suarez-Paz's violin charts new territory at each performance.

Oscar Feldman performed regularly with composer and bandoneonist, Dino Saluzzi. He is widely recorded. The addition of saxophone to this program was extremely welcome, as Town Hall is an enormous venue, and the saxophone created fullness and injected a jazz orchestral motif to Avantango's selections. Feldman is an extremely talented musician on his own, and he played in the true jazz style that I often hear in the New York jazz clubs. Saxophone in Tango is champagne with dessert.

And, the cognac with dessert is trumpet in Tango. Diego Urcola has been a member of Paquito D'Rivera's Quintet and has toured and recorded with the greats of Latin and jazz. Urcola occasionally used his mute to exotic effect. The addition of Urcola's trumpet was brilliant. I had the fantasy of sitting in Buenos Aires, circa 1970. In looking over my original Piazzolla CD's, it is rare to see either trumpet or saxophone listed. I also saw a clarinet listed, once, as well as a cello.

Alicia Mugetti's costumes were unreal. Ms. Mugetti has designed for celebrities and has a Salon on Madison Avenue. They were just too beautiful, too sexy, and too perfect. There was so much clever space for the women's legs to move and so much class to some of the men's outfits. Most notable were Ms. Franganillo's costumes, both feathery and fiery, Ms. Zokalski's sleek dresses, and Mr. DiFalco's outfits that matched or complimented Ms. Zokalski's. And, of course, Ms. Fontan's gorgeous diva dresses.

Let's all close our eyes and hold our breath and wait for Avantango to return, in some form, as soon as possible. Bravo, Pablo Aslan!!

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