MILONGA AT THE BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME (International Dance Festival Birmingham)
Theatre Run: Friday 23 - Saturday 24 May 2014
Performance Reviewed: Friday 23 May 2014 (Press Night)
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
The International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014 draws it’s main stage performances to a close this year with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Milonga, a suitably showy finale that crackles with the fire, complexity and frisson of Argentine Tango and dance. It leans not on narrative but rather it’s extraordinarily diverse and inquisitive choreographer’s penchant for really exploring and re-imagining different forms of dance, here creating a real tapestry and canvas of tango that is many things at once, but all beautifully choreographed and masterfully performed.
From a mournful, almost uncomfortably fluid and contorting solo, to spritelier moments of levity with comedic routines that almost (intentionally) approach lampoonery, through to the more conventional yet extremely welcome heated, passionate duets that more traditionally spring to mind when discussing the form, Milonga is a wonderfully ecclectic and indeed inventive foray that does a superlative job of fleshing out it’s 90-minute running time (perfectly judged, and not impeded by an interval interruption) into a veritable kaleidoscope of different tonal vignettes and set pieces. It’s a terrific and generally engrossing demonstration of just how malleable the form can be, and a show that is by parts exciting, haunting, daring, whimsical and just that ideal soupcon of sexual.
The diversity of experience that Milonga represents echoes through to the variety of backdrop, lighting and projection work that is utilised throughout and frequently makes an impact. Far too often such implementations, particularly in dance productions, can come across as gimmicky or unnecessary distractions from the core raison d’etre, but for the most part Milonga’s efforts are extremely well-judged, and extenuate the choreography or on-stage action to beautifully encompass the entire staging space, usually with added cultural or historical Argentine flavouring. There are a couple of times when they don’t quite work - a deliberately delayed projection, for instance, matching one or two of the duets is intentionally staccato but the eye can’t help long for the action on-stage and on-screen to be in sync, leaving the intended effect somewhat jarring - but mostly the visuals are incredibly arresting and far more ambitious and impressive in scope and implementation than one would perhaps expect.
A five-man band accompanies much of the action on-stage, belying their numbers and creating a beautiful, powerful accompaniment throughout, featuring a wealth of pitch-perfect compositions and numbers that ebb and flow with the Cherkaoui’s choreography effortlessly. Of the company, there are notably no weak links, and an overall standard of performance that is consistently excellent. Particular praise, however, must be given to the likes of Silvina Cortes for her aforementioned solo work which is stunningly dextrous, and German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi for their extraordinary penultimate denouement to the show; a blazing, triumphant duet that elicited the audience’s most audible and celebratory admiration.
In all, Milonga proves to be a thoroughly successful indulge into the oft-stereotyped world of Argentine dance. Cherkaoui is not above acknowledging the form’s tropes and cliche’s, in fact he openly admits to leaning on them for identity and familiarity, but around the familiar lies a show and approach that is altogether more diverse and original. A stunningly executed showcase of dance via a series of beautifully conceived and perfectly executed vignettes and mood pieces as opposed to any overriding narrative, Milonga is consummately entertaining and a thoroughly worthy climax to this years International Dance Festival as a whole.
(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * (4 out of 5 Stars)
+ Beautifully eclectic exploration of Argentine dance
+ Stunning precision and energy to both the choreography and performance
+ Great use of stage space and projection/lighting design
+ Great musical accompaniment by on-stage band
MILONGA is running at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Friday 23 to Saturday 24 May 2014.
Alternatively, call Ticket Sales directly on 0844 338 5000 now to book your tickets!
For more information on the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014, which is holding a broad programme of dance content across the city, including free performances, head on over to the Festival Website by clicking HERE.
Press tickets for this performance of Milonga were provided courtesy of the Birmingham Hippodrome directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.