Two dance styles developed 9,000 kilometres apart become a sort of yin and yang when brought together onstage in the world premiere of Volver a FlamenTango, in which the explosive footwork of flamenco is paired with the seductive embrace and acrobatic movement of tango.
The show, a sequel to Spanish flamenco star Maria Serrano’s work FlamenTango, tells the story of two disillusioned Argentine dancers looking to explore their Spanish heritage. “In FlamenTango, there exists strength, passion, a show full of life from beginning to the end,” Serrano says. “It’s a complete show, where both tango and flamenco create a quality that is lovely, very moody and elegant.”
“Maria Serrano presents flamenco and tango from many different angles: modern and traditional, pure and fusion,” says dancer Jonathan Sánchez Fernández. “It’s a winning combination to bring such distinct dances together.”
Whereas modern-day flamenco and tango performances tend to be male-female pairings, Serrano and her company dig into the dances’ roots to play with gender roles. “Originally, tango and other dances . . . were danced by couples of the same sex, men with men and women with women. With the social changes, this practice has fallen into disuse, being associated with sexual tendencies,” Sánchez says.
But as Serrano points out, it’s not always about the sex. “Sensuality can be as much in men as in women. It is not always about strength, either. It follows the vision of what you bring to it, as you see it. Tango is not erotic when two men dance it. At the end of the shows, men danced with men, women with women, and at no time does it come to mind that it’s erotic.”
Of course, both flamenco and tango are often associated with courtship, so some audience members might feel uncomfortable watching two dancers of the same gender perform. But while it is true that Spanish men enticed women by asking them to dance the sevillanas and Argentine men would head to the tango halls, or milongas, to sweep women off their feet, they would first perfect their moves with other men. Serrano’s openness — and perhaps the influence of her gay company members and friends — makes her unafraid to explore that side of the dances.
Not only do the dancers switch partners during the show; they also switch dance styles, which says a lot about the skill of Serrano and her troupe. FlamenTango merges the flamenco forms of soléa por bulerias, tientos, taranto, alegria and farruca with various forms of tango. It’s a dance buffet, perfect for both those with little experience of Spanish or Latin culture and avid fans of flamenco and tango.
Serrano admits that she initially hadn’t thought about revisiting FlamenTango, partly because of the complication of reuniting dancers living on different continents, but Toronto dance fans should be thankful that she has. Audiences around the world applauded Serrano’s special take on flamenco and tango years ago, and she continues to break boundaries with the new work. As art imitates life, Serrano encourages everyone to “live that unique moment of time to dance. You need only a little bit of effort in your heart.”