Wednesday, April 25, 2007

FUSION TANGO Generates Heat

My parents in-law are octogenarians. Terrifyingly they are also Tango dancers. They're not professionals, they don't do exhibition shows or anything, but Tango is one of their hobbies. So it was that they invited the little woman and me to join them at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood last night for a show called Fusion Tango, which comprised a five-man band, two singers and four couples.
Tango is a strange, exotic brew. The music - so dark and smoky and soulful, so primitive. The movements - fast, twitchy, almost insectoid in nature. This is perhaps the only dance where they insist on not smiling.
Three of the four couples were young, intense people, and they were amazing. Precise but acrobatic, I lost count of how many times a woman in a thigh-slit black dress was twirled like a sexy baton by a glowering young man with greased black hair. A few times the woman would walk away and turn her back on the fellow, only to be pulled back into his arms. Then they would dance, with less than half an inch between their taut bodies, suddenly kicking and jerking their limbs so violently that it's astonishing that no one broke any bones.
Then there was the other couple.
"Watch that guy," my mother in law said. "He's our instructor."
A stocky man in a white double breasted suit, balding, probably around 50, emerged. His partner was another 20-something in a black dress. This man was indeed, captivating. It was hard to figure out why at first. Sure part of it was the narrative. An older man dancing so close to a girl obviously too young for him, that carries some drama. But there was something else. I couldn't put my finger on it.
The man was doing a lot of his dancing with his hands. Where another couple had swung each other like ice skaters, this man would pause, almost motionless, and lift one finger to shake at the bandeleon player. Or he'd fill a beat by caressing the girl from her shoulder blade to the small of her back. Or he'd rub his thumb along his fingertips. Tiny, precise movements, perfectly in rhythm.
He had managed to make his hands a third, separate performer in the dance.
Needless to say, he was the most popular of all the dancers. If you are young you can get attention by defying gravity. At his age, that's out of the question and you look towards less strenuous ways to tell the story. Instead of dazzling footwork, he did dazzling fingertip work. Though his footwork was quite accomplished as well.
For me, economy of movement trumps amazing movement every time. I'd rather see that bald guy dance than see Lance Burton, all things considered.
And this is why, as the entertainment world shrinks and investors pull out, there will still be good movies and TV shows. Because there are plenty of bald guys who know how to make it work without special effects. Even some guys with hair.

(Hear this read on the Box Office Weekly podcast here)

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