Tanguera @ Sadlers Wells

The Tango ballet/musical that was born out of an Argentina crisis shows its relevance to a London audience
Corina J Poore

This show premiered in Buenos Aires in 2002 at the height of the financial crisis, known as the ‘corralito’.  Yet, despite the banks being closed and people having little cash, the Teatro Nacional was overflowing every night. Watching this immaculate show now on at Sadler’s Wells, it is easy to understand why it still attracts large audiences fifteen years down the line.

A riot of colour and sound, Tanguera mesmerised the audience. And what a variety of people in the audience too! I spotted a number of celebrities from Esther Rantzen and Robin Skinner to Jeremy Vine. A multitude of languages spoken all around, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, French, Spanish and even some English, you name it; a truly cosmopolitan audience and they roared their approval calling for at least 5 encores, applauding and cheering wildly, to which the dancers obliged, giving us little finale cameos, each one original and different from the other. This is a show with universal appeal, it was clear everyone loves the tango.

The creative team of Tanguera, led by Diego Romay. Dolores Espeja and Mora Godoy, were both inventive and astute enough to make the ‘Tango’ dance into a narrative-led spectacle. There have been Tango shows in the past that concentrated only on having a good orchestra and some dancers doing cameos, almost as a distraction. In Tanguera, the story of jealousy and love succeeded in getting the audience more involved. This structure also lends itself to theatrical effects, adding a massive dimension to the show.

There were some effective moments where the combination of selective low lighting, the set and the choice of music added enormously to the drama: in particular one scene where a group of men in their suits and fedoras are dancing menacingly in the shadows, representing the mafia that controlled the dockers at the time. The scene was electrifying.  I could have done with more of that… the dancing that is, not the mafia!  The lead dancers, Melody Celatti as Giselle, Esteban Domenichino as the young enamoured docker Lorenzo, and Dabel Zanabria as the possessive mafioso Gaudencio played their dramatic roles as well as their dancing. This was largely thanks to the  show’s theatrical Director Omar Pacheco,  whose input that added so much to this show.  This was highly watchable Tango at a high level of professionalism, not least among the main troupe, some of whom stood out. Quite entertaining to find you could not resist picking out your favourites. 

The orchestra sextet featuring the iconic bandoneon at its heart, was flanked by the piano, double bass, violin, a guitar and a saxophonist /clarinet, wind instruments.   Having live music added a special ingredient. They opened the show but then were sadly hidden much of the time in the rear. The arrangements in particular, stood out.  Being familiar with some of the better- known originals, I found the treatment sensitive and imaginative. The music was mainly instrumental, but scattered throughout the show, were a few songs sung by Marianella in true traditional style.  They were discreet and well selected; some tango singing can be too melodramatic but Marianella hit the mark just right.

The sets were simple but effective, and knowing the areas described, they were also true to their origins.  The lighting effects created various changing shapes on the stage on which the dancers moved, which added an air of mystery and intrigue.

Milonga, the earliest form of tango, danced initially only between men, is formed of many rapid steps, playful and even a bit acrobatic. It was never balletic and I felt that the choreography could have allowed for a greater difference in the style between the earlier and later forms of the dance to give some historical contrast. 

Overall, Tanguera was a bit like having a large tasty meal after which you feel very satisfied. Judging by the comments I picked up from the audience as they left the theatre I was not the only one, with everyone suddenly remembering that there was a tango course at that place up the road, and how they must go again!

Tanguera will be on a Sadler’s Wells until Sunday August 6th 2017.

Director:   Omar Pacheco

Producer: Diego Romay

Original Music & arrangements:      Gerardo Gardelin

Set Design:            Valeria Ambrosio 

Choreography:    Mora Godoy



Giselle                      Melody Celatti

Gaudencio             Dabel Zanabria

Lorenzo                    Esteban Domenichini

Madam                    Carla Chimento

Rengo                        Gustavo Fortino