Dallas — Informative. Relaxed. Unpretentious. Quality. These were the thoughts and feelings evoked by Dallas Symphony’s presentation of Tango Caliente, expertly conducted by maestro Jeff Tyzik, with soprano Camille Zamora on vocals, musical solos by Grammy winner guest artist Hector del Curto (bandoneón), and DSO co-concertmaster Nathan Olson (violin) and David Buck (flute). Not to be left behind were authentic Argentine tango dance performances choreographed with precision by Argentine dancer Patricio Touceda, plus professional dancers Sonya Tsekanovsky, Tomás Galván and Gimena Herrera, Hugo Patyn and Celina Rotundo.
Conductor Tyzik set the casual tone for the evening, dressed in a summery white suit and addressing the full house directly. He introduced each piece with a story or anecdote, something to bring home its meaning and background. Soprano Zamora also added comments on the story and the Spanish lyrics she sang. No pretentiousness here by either one; it felt like a casual conversation during an evening with friends. While I have been to the Myerson many times, for some reason this feeling of “home” prompted me to take a look around the lovely interior of this hall. Sublime and unpretentious, just like the performance.
The first half of the program included works not by Astor Piazzolla, but rather more traditional pieces such as “Baldosa floja” (by Florindo Sassone/Julio Boccazzi) with a powerful initial dancing statement by Touceda and Tsekanovsky, Galván and Herrera, and Patyn and Rotundo. “Celos” (Jacob Gade) followed with a sweeping violin solo by Olson.
One of the all-time best tangos for performers, Mariano Mores’ “Tanguera” — which means female tango dancer— easily won the audience’s appreciation with hearty applause both to the music and the dancing performed with incredible sharpness by Galván and Herrera, both in elegant black.
“Tango de la Menegilda” (Federico Chueca and Joaquín Valverde from their one-act musical revue La Gran Vía, 1886) with a solo by soprano Zamora, was followed by an orchestra solo that showed off the Meyerson’s fabulous acoustics, “Milonga del angel” by Piazzolla in an arrangement by Delaney. The oldest known tango, “El choclo” (1903) by Ángel Villoldo, followed with a dance performance by Touceda and Tsekanovsky, the later a dark-haired Russian beauty with the mile-long legs of a ballerina.
One of the evening’s musical highlights was an original composition by maestro Tyzyk entitled “Mallorca,” with a solo flute piece by Buck. As the maestro confided, this is a sort of musical post card he composed based on an enchanted vacation experience on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It was followed by the all-time most heartwarming tango vals, “Desde el alma” (“From the Soul”) by Rosita Melo, sung by Zamora, and accompanied in a romantic rendition by Galván and Herrera, in a white flowing gown. This wrapped up the first part of the program.
The second part of the program began with an enlightening lesson by maestro Del Curto on the difficult intricacies of playing the bandoneón, which while not an initial part of the music (flute, guitar and violin are the original instruments according to the maestro), it now the heart of tango music. Del Curto, accompanied by Olson on violin, did justice to Piazzolla’s “Escualo” (slang for “shark”). Williams’ arrangement of Piazzolla’s “Por una cabeza” (which alludes to losing out by a horse’s head in horse-racing terms). Dancers Touceda and Tsekanovsky accompanied this recognizable tune made famous in the 1992 film Scent of a Woman, featuring Al Pacino.
While the program listed Piazzolla’s signature “Oblivion,” it was not played. Choreographer Touceda later explained to me that due to current right litigation, the royalties that need to be rendered made it prohibitable. It was replaced by Anibal Troilo’s dynamic ode to his preferred musical instrument, “Che Bandoneón,” with a solo by Del Curto.
Patyn and Rotundo delivered an impressive and emotional rendition of “Vuelvo al Sur” (“I Return to the South”) by Piazzolla. Dallas is fortunate to now have this internationally known couple as permanent residents. Their aerial lifts and expressive dance technique are valued worldwide. Rotundo wore a flowing blue gown with prints, which evoked the Southern Cone’s gusty winds. And yes, Rotundo makes all of her beautiful gowns.
“Primavera porteña” (“Buenos Aires Spring”), another Piazzolla piece, this time arranged by Pablo Zeigler (with whom Del Curto won a Grammy), had the maestro plus Touceda and Tsekanovsky in a dance solo which had some of us worried that her sheer, off-one-shoulder draped gown that was tacked down at the opposite side of what appeared to be an undergarment, would come loose.
The program wrapped up with a soprano solo singing “Carcelera,” a traditional gypsy song by Ruperto Chapi, with lyrics by José Estremera which Zamora, described as “tango as an opera in three minutes.” It speaks of a woman imprisoned by love. Zamora had gown changes for each of her pieces, a great way of making a visual accompaniment to her clear and expressive voice.
All three couples returned to dance the traditional song that closes every tango dance party worldwide, “La cumparsita” by the Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodriguez, composed in 1916. Sharply dressed in elegant black, the three couples showed off their individual style while maintaining their precision in unison. Touceda’s choreography kept within the Argentinean (and not American or international ballroom styles) tango-for-stage performance tradition, offering the audience an authentic tango experience based on these dancers’ technique and high level of expertise.
The evening ended with an enthusiastic ovation and a satisfied look on attendees’ faces.
» Teresa Marrero is Professor of Latin American and Latinx Theater in the Department of Spanish at the University of North Texas. She is an advisory board member for the Latinx Theatre Commons. She has been an avid Argentine tango dancer since 2005 with dozens of trips to Buenos Aires.