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Jennifer Wesnousky
Performance Reviews
Argentine Tango
Town Hall
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Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble - TANGO FIRST CENTURY

by Jennifer Wesnousky
February 17, 2006
Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 840-2824

Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble - TANGO FIRST CENTURY

Presented by: The Town Hall
Not Just Jazz series.

Musical director, arrangements and bandoneon: Rómulo Larrea
First violin: François Pilon
Violin: Frédéric Lefebvre
Viola: Alexandra Gregova
Cello: Sheila Hannigan
Double Bass: Denis Chabot
Piano: Stéphane Aubin
Vocals: Verónica Larc
Tango dancers: Cecilia Saia & Ronen Khayat, Carolina Zokalski & Diego DiFalco, Sandra Antognazzi & Carlos Yannacañedo
Choreographic direction: Cecilia Saia & Ronen Khayat
Lighting design: Pierre Lavoie
Sound design: Luc Maltais
Stage Manager: Illese Alexander
Technical direction: William Dehling
Artistic director: Lawrence Zucker

Jennifer E. Wesnousky
February 17, 2006

Following its dazzling debut at Town Hall last May with Tangos…for La Milonga, the Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble's followup performance of their new show, Tango First Century, at the same venue on Friday, February 17, 2006 provided the audience with an equally enchanting evening of tango song, dance and musical mastery.

As the musical director, arranger and bandoneon player for the Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble, Uruguayan-born Larrea's pride and appreciation for his ensemble in particular and Argentine tango in general consistently shone throughout the performance. While seeming most at home during his passionate playing of the bandoneon, Larrea further captivated his intrigued audience with candid conversation, revealing his enthusiasm to be "on Broadway" and about the ever-increasing influence of Argentine tango on his present hometown of Quebec and worldwide.

Larrea's musical expertise was apparent not only in his own playing, but in his direction of his six accompanying musicians, including the traditional tango trio- double bass, piano and bandoneon- as well as a string quartet. An extended medley of Piazzolla tunes in which each musician was given the opportunity to perform a solo segment displayed the individual quality necessary to produce such a harmonious whole.

While wrapped in a seemingly endless array of sparkling floor-length dresses, female vocalist Verónica Larc's glittering voice seemed itself sufficiently shining as she belted out such tango standards as El Día Que Me Quieras and Volver to the delight of the enraptured audience. It was no surprise, then, to read in the program that Larc is Larrea's daughter, for with an onstage presence as commanding as her superbly profound voice, Larc seemed at home on the stage.

The addition of three strong, professional tango dance couples both complimented the ensemble and spoke for itself, bringing audience enthusiasm to new heights each time they glided smoothly onto the scene. Although the pairs appeared extremely in sync with one another during corps pieces (crafted creatively by the choreographic team of Cecilia Saia and Ronen Khayat, who also danced during the performance), it was during the couples' solo numbers in which each of them was able to display their individual technical and theatrical flair.

"He's so good, it's scary," one audience member was heard remarking of Diego DiFalco, who needed only to step onstage to warrant such admiration. Ever-connected and seemingly enthralled with his partner, Carolina Zokalski, who appeared doll-like as she encircled him in rapid molinetes, the ease with which he executed incredibly intricate footwork seemed almost meditative. Suited perfectly for one another, DiFalco and Zokalski's extensive professional experience together gave their dancing a serenely grounded quality and understated style that was always musical perfection.

Despite the often frenetic pace of Ronen Khayat's fantastically fast feet, his demeanor remained mostly aloof and elegant in contrast to his partner, Cecilia Saia's overwhelming ardor, instilling their performance with a kind of compelling plot. Fans of the seasoned Saia were as delighted as always by her seductively serpentine movement and legs which, whether languidly encircling Khayat's waist or executing impossibly quick entanglements, compelled. The couple reached their technical and emotional peak in the more modern, Piazzolla piece, Escualo, during which, Khayat demonstrated that two could play this passionate game as the couple's explosive energy stole the scene.

The crowd pleasing Carlos Yannacanedo and Sandra Antognazzi's added a hop, skip and jump to evening with their creative incorporation of lifts, spins and falls not often seen in traditional tango choreographies. Time and time again, the lovely Antognazzi, impossibly balletic and light, sprung to impossible heights at the hands of the lithe Yannacanedo, evoking the audience's enthusiastic response. In addition to their choreographic artistry, the couple's expressive interplay, ranging from playful to romantic to downright comedic, made them, along with the entire performance of the Rómulo Larrea Tango Ensemble's Tango First Century, a multifaceted joy to watch.

Ronen and Cecilia

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