By Joan Alperin Schwartz
One doesn't just dance a Tango...One has to feel it and believe it...The Tango is all about the story...The dancers must be able to act, in order to connect to the sensuality and the passion of this dance. Of course, good technique comes in handy as well.
I am happy to report, that the dancers with the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara, has all of the above and more...which makes their new production...'An American Tango' a must see production for any one who loves dance and/or dance history.
'An American Tango' is the story of Veloz and Yolanda, considered one of the world's greatest ballroom dance couples.
That's right folks, before 'Dancing With The Stars', 'So You Think You Can Dance' and the 3 or 4 'Step Up' films, there were dance couples, who were almost as famous as...Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and Savon Glover.
The show starts out in the 1920's, when Francisco Veloz Goiticoa de Van Baimderlust, ex-street fighter and hell raiser, from the streets of New York, goes to a dance club and meets, a dark, sensual Italian beauty, named Iolanda Casazza from Little Italy.
The rest is history.
The pair fell in love, married, had kids and became the highest paid featured act, at high end supper clubs, across the U.S., Cuba and Europe, including the Casino in Monte Carlo, the Mayfair Hotel in London and Hotel Sevilla in Havana, just to name a few.
Frank and Yolanda, were the first and only ballroom dance team to appear at Carnegie Hall.
In 1939, the duo graced the cover of Life Magazine, where they were called the 'Greatest Dance Couple'.
What's so amazing, is that neither Yolanda or Frank, ever had a single dance lesson. Frank invented each step of every routine from waltz to tango to rumba to samba. He even designed all of Yolanda's costumes.
Unfortunately, Frankie's love of gambling, drinking and other women, eventually caused the couple to split, but not before dancing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1948, where they held the all time attendance record, until the Beatles performed there in 1964. .
'An American Tango' brings their story to life, beautifully.
Set to the music of Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller just to name a few, we take a journey through time with Veloz and Yolanda, as they perform The Cake-Walk, The Lindy, Waltzes and of course...the tango.
We also meet their colorful friends including, Walter Witchell, Florenz Ziegfeld and mobster Dutch Schultz.
Principal ballerina Leila Drake is breathtaking as the glamorous Yolanda and Jack Stewart is excellent as the charismatic, brilliant, but troubled, Frank.
The show was conceived and written by Guy Veloz (son of Frank and Yolanda), choreographed and directed by William Soleau.
The ensemble of dancers are wonderful conveying all the different dance styles of the time.
My only problem with the show, was the use of a narrator (Joseph Fuqua)...I think the dance and the dance alone, should tell the story. The use of the narrator, split my focus away from the dance...Can you imagine 'Swan Lake' with a narrator?...Okay folks, the swan has been shot and she's down...The swan is down...I repeat.
With that said, I hope the show moves to Broadway, where it definitely belongs.
'An American Tango' appeared at The Broad Stage: 1310 11th Street, Santa Monica CA 90401 this past Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 8 pm. and Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm.
Fr more information about 'An American Tango', please go to www.anamericantango.com.