The rhythm of the tango underpins Los Guardiola - The Comedy of Tango in this superb production from Musique et Toile, but the show is much broader than the one dance form. There is much going on in this remarkable combination of dance and movement interspersed with mime sequences that hark back to the era of black and white movies and Charlie Chaplin and that draws on their expertise in commedia dell’arte.
Tango is transformed into brilliant theatre
The multidisciplinary show has been performed in Paris for over six years. The work is divided into seven scenes, each introduced with its name presented on a chalkboard by Marcelo Guardiola, who is from Argentina. In the dance routines he is joined by the Italian Giorgia Marchiori. They are both performers and choreographers who create a fantasy world of encounters, hopes and disappointmenst in playful vignettes that are frequently amusing.
The opening sequence, The Barrel Organ, goes back to the origins of the Tango in a comedic performance set in the streets of Buenos Aires and establishes the light-hearted approach to the subject.
The Emigrant is a clear visualisation of the boat journey taken by a young Italian woman to meet a local Argentinian and is followed by The Bachelor Flat. It’s performed on a box which is a metaphor for a bulin, an apartment used for sexual encounters inspired by the famous apartment in Buenos Aires on the second floor of 348 Avenue Corrientes. Arising from the tango Noches de Colón, The Fall tells of the rise and fall of a Porteño dandy in the 1920s who went from nobleman to beggar. It also includes a section from Ravel’s Bolero.
If you have ever been to a milonga, you will appreciate the competitiveness of being the best and most spectacular in the salon. In To Each Their Own Tango the woman is invited to dance by a cabeceo, a head gesture that lures her to him. Who knows where it may lead? Perhaps to the next piece, Betrayal, underpinned by Iván Díez’s 1930 poem Amablemente (Kindly). The great singer Edmundo Rivero put the words to music in 1963: He found her in the room and in the arms of another / But, calm and collected, he said to the seducer: / You can leave, the man is not guilty in situations like this. Enough said about machismo.
The fantasy Paper Heart concludes the set, bringing to life the poem Corazón de Papel by Alberto Franco: Little rag doll / Dressed as Pierrot, / Though you have no soul / I want only you / Since I know you'll always / Be faithful to me, / Little rag doll, / with a paper heart.
An array of black and white costumes and masks enhances these performances along with a host of musical extracts. But it is the carefully crafted dance routines, cleverly and imaginatively constructed, combined with precise execution that rightly stand out. Here, tango is transformed into brilliant theatre.