NEW YORK – It may not please purist tango lovers – it may even scandalize them. But the affair going on between “Forever Tango” and salsa star Gilberto Santa Rosa may be one of those summer romances to remember.
“Forever Tango” is back on Broadway with its passionate moves, looks and emotions, three special guests and a twist: Grammy Award-winner Santa Rosa has brought not only his voice to the Argentine classics but also his own style and rhythm, plus a couple of his own songs: “Si te dijeron” and “Que alguien me diga.” Both have heartbreaking lyrics perfect for the tango.
From the first notes of the “Garza” and “El dia que me quieras,” to the tango adaptations of his songs, the Puerto Rican crooner triggers cheers from the audience as he shows the talent and charisma that earned him the nickname the Gentleman of Salsa.
The same enthusiasm is shown for Ukrainian-born ex-fiancees Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the other two guests in the show, from the hit TV series “Dancing With the Stars.” Their undeniably strong technique and presence are fun to watch (especially as ex-lovers in an intensely fiery third number), even if they can’t always disguise the lack of naturalness in their moves and expressions, all of which flows through the veins of the company’s tango dancers.
It is a hard dance to master, the former Latin ballroom dancing champions have admitted. “It’s like trying to be a great poet but in a different language,” Chmerkovskiy said.
The tango is probably Argentina’s most popular export. It developed in Buenos Aires in the 1880s, blending local styles and elements of Cuban, African and European music. The salsa, probably one the most popular forms of Latin American music, was popularized in New York in the 1970s, although many argue the rhythm itself was born years before in Cuba.
The other “Forever Tango” dancers include Juan Paulo Horvath, Victoria Galoto, Marcela Duran, Gaspar Godoy, “Zumo” Leguizamsn, Belin Bartolomi, Florencia Blanco, Hernan Lazart, Diego Ortega, Aldana Silveyra, Sebastian Ripoll, Mariana Bojanich, Soledad Buss, Cisar Peral and, as the comedic relief to all that steam and passion, Natalia Turelli and Ariel Manzanares.
The music is exquisitely played by the orchestra, which includes great performances by “Forever Tango” creator Luis Bravo on the cello and by Jorge Vernieri on the piano. But the spotlight is on four senior bandoneonists (the youngest is 70), who stand out with their artistry and enthusiasm: Victor Lavallin, Carlos Niesi, Jorge Trivisonno and Eduardo Miceli.
“They are masters that play the way the tango should really be played. They don’t come like that, not anymore,” Bravo said last week during a press conference. “If I didn’t come with the masters I wouldn’t have come.”
“Forever Tango” will be at the Walter Kerr Theatre until Sept. 15, with Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy performing until Aug. 11.
Santa Rosa, who adds some salsa flair with “Que alguien me diga,” finishes his limited engagement on July 28, but the show’s affair with salsa will go on with Nicaragua-born star Luis Enrique, who will be joining from July 30 to Aug. 18.