Geneva Anderson digs into art

Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango” –Authentic Tango with one exception: Headliner Cheryl Burke wouldn’t make the cut in Argentina– at Marines’ Memorial Theatre through January 12, 2011


Jorge Torres and Marcela Duran of Argentina dance the Tango in Luis Bravo's "Forever Tango" at Marines' Memorial Theatre through January 12, 2011.

Forever Tango by Luis Bravo has added two additional dates to its run at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theater, and now goes through Wednesday, January 12, 2011.  The show headlines Bay Area native Cheryl Burke of Dancing with the Stars as well as 12 world-class Latin American tango dancers and master Argentine vocalist Martín de León.  A wonderful 8-piece on-stage orchestra features three bandoneóns, the accordion-like instrument that is the mainstay of tango music.  If you’re intrigued with Argentine Tango, this is the show for you: it brings an intoxicating display of passion and prowess to the stage as it traces the tango’s colorful history from its beginnings in turn-of-the century Buenos Aires bordellos to its acceptance into high society.  If you’re expecting to see a lot of Cheryl Burke’s exquisite dancing, be warned Burke makes only three appearances and is out of her league amongst these Latinos who dance the tango with the intensity, passion and precision that it demands.  It was a shrewd marketing move to use Burke’s name to draw in a wider Bay Area audience but ultimately Burke who is usually a very technically impressive performer, falls short.

Created and directed by Luis Bravo who plays the cello in the orchestra, Forever Tango features 19 dances, 14 of which are full tangos danced by six couples, each displaying a unique style.  The dances, performed to original and traditional music, are the result of collaboration between each couple and Bravo. The ensemble numbers are not as emotionally charged or as enjoyable as the couples’ numbers. The show is performed in two acts and runs 2 1/4 hours with intermission.

The original production was a hit San Francisco in 1994 where it played for 92 weeks.  In June of 1997, Forever Tango opened on Broadway where it played for 14 months and earned rave reviews. The show garnered Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, and became the longest-running tango show in Broadway history, a record that still stands.  Forever Tango has since toured the U. S., Europe and Asia.

Juan Paulo Horvath and Victoria Galoto in Luis Bravo's "Forever Tango" at Marines' Memorial Theatre through January 12, 2011.

It is the striking and technically stunning red headed Argentine Vanessa Villalba whose two solos and three duets with partner David Leguizamón laid down a standard which few matched.  Villalba, who joined the Forever Tango cast in 2007, delivered a sultry combo of sensuality and mental chess— she began with a series of very staccato and dazzling quick leg movements around her partner, Leguizamón, which drove the audience wild and ignited him.  In touch with each other, the floor, the music they entered a prolonged state of intimacy that was at times charged and at times meditative, their bodies and psyches in complete synchrony. 

Marcela Durán, a Forever Tango icon who has been with the show since 1994, spoke a different, softer more sensitive language in her two duets with the sensational Gaspar Godoy.  In a flowing dress by acclaimed Brazilian costume designer “Miro” (Argemira Affonso) with a sheer lace upper bodice that revealed her breast, Durán was mesmerizing to behold.  She literally melded into Godoy in a pure sensual embrace, her signature version of the “tango hold” which is one of the foundational characteristics of the dance.  Connected by the upper part of their bodies, often looking into one another’s eyes, or dancing cheek to cheek to the rhythm of the music, Durán and Godoy became one.  The rhythm of the music which is often said to be based on the heartbeat, created a haunting and deeply melancholic tone which moved many audience members to tears.

Details:  Forever Tango runs through January 12, 2011 at Marines’ Memorial Theatre. The 650-seat Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St. (at Mason) near Union Square, is on the second floor of a 12-story Beaux-Arts-style building built in 1926 as the “Western Women’s Club” and bought by the Marines Memorial Association in 1946.  The main floor lobby contains a display of military memorabilia, most notably the bell from the USS San Francisco.  The second-floor lobby bar serves refreshments before the show and during intermission.  Tickets: $55 to $100. Marines’ Memorial Theatre Box Office, second floor, 609 Sutter St. (at Mason), San Francisco. Purchase by phone at (415) 771-6900 or online at

Napa Performance:  Friday, January 14, 2011, 8 p.m. at Lincoln Theater Napa Valley, Yountville.  Tickets: $49 to $69.  Box office: 100 California Drive, Yountville, (707) 944-9900 or  

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment