The lights dim. A couple dressed for a black-tie affair intensely embraces. As the bandoneon hits a sharp note, they quickly turn and gracefully march across the dance floor.
It's easy to imagine that the sensuously elegant dance of tango originated on a high-society ballroom floor in a sophisticated corner of Buenos Aires. But the story is not so simple. The reality is that it takes far more than two to tango. It takes African slaves in Argentina dancing the condombe late into the night, an underprivileged working-class co-opting what was considered a vulgar dance form, and Europeans eventually reinventing the imported dance craze.
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In Eras del Tango, three couples explore the history of tango by profiling different eras through dance and costume. The performance begins barefoot with the condombe, the original version of tango that was fashioned by African slaves brought to Argentina. It then moves to the 1920s for a look at the dance popular amongst the working class before dancers don pearls and tuxedos for the tango elegante that originated once the dance became a craze in Europe. Eventually, director Mariela Barufaldi says, "it finds itself in the port of Argentina where all of the immigrants are coming and it gets faster." The performance ends with the modern fusion of dance styles that we regard as modern tango.
The show is directed and produced by Tango Axis, a dance company founded by Barufaldi and Jeremias Massera, a real-life couple that left careers in broadcasting and music in order to teach and perform tango in South Florida and across the country. "I fell in love with the music first. I was always attracted to movement and dance," says Jeremias. "The combination of the two, plus holding a beautiful woman in my arms, was a feeling with no comparison." Mariela, who was first introduced to tango music on the radio while on summer vacations at her grandparents' house in Argentina, also felt an instant connection to the dance once she learned it as an adult. "When I met Jeremias and we started this journey together, it became more than just a dance."
They will be joined on stage by the award-winning dance teams of Diego Blanco and Ana Padron, and Jerry and Christine Perez, as well as vocalist Cristina Longo and a five-piece orchestra showcasing the instruments of tango music.
Eras del Tango. Saturday, August 28. Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Performances will take place at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $36-$48. Call 305-674-1040 or visit ticketmaster.com.