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New York Times Review: Gabriel Missé and Guillermina Quiroga Tango With Passion and Laughter

 

The New York Times

Guillermina Quiroga and Gabriel Missé at Dardo Galletto Studios on Saturday night
Credit Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times 

Tango, with the dramatic proximity it gives two dancers from brow to instep and its dramatically weighted walk, can be the most sexually charged of dance forms. It’s romantic, smoldering and very often tragic — as if destiny were steering the couple. But Gabriel Missé, who has been coming regularly to New York since 2008, is all laughter and song. On Saturday night, he was chuckling boyishly around the Dardo Galleto Studios as he prepared the recordings to which he was to dance.

When Guillermina Quiroga (a queen of tango since the last century), wearing a long-sleeved, calf-length dress of emerald green, arrived to join him for their first number, her eyes sparkled with the same laughter as she looked at him from across the floor. For all the audience enthusiasm, no joy in the room could match the delight these two found in each other.

They danced four duets — one more than tango couples usually deliver (the fourth was a sweeping, rapid valse-tango) — all improvised, yet with feats that looked like formal choreography. In their first number, they suddenly knelt at the same moment (a wonderful touch that passed in an instant), and she ended another dance by arriving, in a flash, to sit on his hip.

These exemplary dancers are both Argentine, but their partnership, arranged by Karina Romero, of the Dardo Galletto Studios, is so far exclusive to New York, where they first appeared together in November. They’re ideally matched in physique, temperament and style. Within the opening moments of their first dance, they both showed how many shades of footwork they have: the soft, slow semicircles she traced on the floor with an extended toe (he soon echoed them); the needle turn (one foot pointed into the floor) in which she revolved him; the whiplash strokes of his leg in the air at calf height. At one moment, she released him while he did a single pirouette, within inches of her, before quickly returning to the tango embrace.

The spell of Ms. Quiroga’s style begins in her stance. Often she’s wonderfully high on the balls of her feet, and to watch how, from this narrow base, she then leans forward onto her partner is a marvel. Mr. Missé partners as if he were conducting a happy conspiracy, cheek to cheek; he’s playful in letting his partner turn this way and that, as if she were wriggling in his arms. And both are marvels in tango’s elegant dovetailing of the ankles: Feet are crossed over to make two legs into a single descending triangle.

The virtuosity of both dancers was often breathtaking. An audience of tango connoisseurs shrieked, gasped and cooed at the fast-traveling trills and out-of the-blue pouncing skips. But the beauty of these duets surpassed their bravura. Mr. Missé and Ms. Quiroga make each duet a demonstration of cantilena — the singing legato principle that, in music, shapes the flow of the breath into a flexible and varied current — at its most sensuous. The gorgeous gliding phrases, the hairbreadth pauses, the coloratura flourishes all emanate from the same source.

Tango, for all its theatricality, is intimate — you, me and this music. Saturday’s four duets were acts of private understanding: footwork as chamber music.

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A version of this review appears in print on April 19, 2016, on page C4 of the New York edition with the headline: Tango, With Passion, Joy and Laughter.