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Robert Abrams
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SWANGO, the fusion…

by Robert Abrams
July 25, 2002
New York, NY

SWANGO, the fusion…

By Robert Abrams
July 25, 2002

The cast of Swango
Photo courtesy of Grant Le Duc

Swango is presented by a passel of code switching heretics. My kind of people. The heresy starts with the first step, but to see this you have to understand Swango as site specific art. The first dance in the show is West Coast Swing. On a normal evening at Swing 46, where Swango is performed, it would be rare to find anyone dancing West Coast. Even for slow songs that practically beg to be embraced by West Coast, most swingers will dance Lindy slowly. I started dancing seriously when I lived in Santa Cruz, California, so I have a special fondness for West Coast Swing. Swango's West Coast was a joy to watch.

Code switching is a term used in education to describe students who move back and forth between two languages. Swango showed that it is possible to switch back and forth between the languages of Swing and Tango while remaining true to the music.

The dancers danced with strength and lightness. I saw the practice as well as the care that went into the choreography, but what I felt was a weightless ease. Even as an experienced dancer who is habituated to looking for the steps, they danced such that I could forget steps and watch the character of each dance.

There is a fine line between technical virtuosity and art. Swango attained this line. With the merest wisp of narrative, the show had dramatic tension that added to the dancing without turning the show into something other than a dance performance. This wisp has power because it resonates by suggestion with West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet, and … Shakespeare is said to have stolen his plots from Livy, and where Livy stole them from I don't know.

In this respect, Swango manages to be fundamentally a work of modern dance, while remaining true to partner dance.

Swango's principal dancers include Mariela Franganillo, Mariana Parma, Robert Royston, Laureen Baldovi, Cesar Coelho, Cody Melin, Ronen Khayat and Nicola Royston. Their dancing alternated between being beautiful and accessible - where you might say to yourself, I could do that if I practiced three hours a day for the next year; and being beautiful and awe-inspiring - the lift sequences were incredible. The principal dancers were ably assisted by Nicole Friedman, Joe Palmer, Lisa Allen, Marion Grant, Mayte Valdes and Grant Le Duc.

The choreography was by Mariela Franganillo and Robert Royston. Their choreography is related to Romeo and Juliet in another way, besides the commonality of the narratives. One of Romeo and Juliet's defining characteristics is the variation in the number of characters on stage as the play progresses from scene to scene. Swango's choreography shows similar variation. Mariela and Robert showed off their skill and creativity with two dancers on the stage, as well as with the entire cast of eight on stage together. And perhaps just to show that they can choreograph for any number of dancers, there is a seductive too-cool-for-words threesome (Robert Royston dancing with Laureen Baldovi and Nicola Royston, leading both simultaneously).

The costumes were spare but elegant. The set is a simple curtain. Both were the right choice. The costumes and the set enhance the dancing without distracting from it.

The $50 admission price includes dinner (but not drinks), the show and dancing to a live band later on. $35 gets you admission to the show without dinner, but it does include two drinks (plus the dancing after the show). Swing 46 does a pretty good dinner, so in my opinion, you can't go wrong either way. Swango is worth every dollar. Their passion and talent will leave you cheering.

Swango runs until August 30, 2002, currently on Thursday and Friday evenings, starting at 8:30 PM (get there by 7:30 PM if you are having dinner at Swing 46). Do yourself a favor and call Swing 46 at 212-262-9554 to reserve your tickets. Swing 46 is located at 349 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues. They can also be found on the web at www.Swing46.com. Swango can be found on the web at www.SwangoProductions.com. And don't forget to bring your dance shoes for the free dance lesson and dancing to a live Swing band after the show.

For the Inside Perspective, read Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower's interview with Robert Royston and Mariela Franganillo.

For pictures of Swango, please go to the Swango Pics page.

And be sure to check out The SWANGO Photo Essay by Lisa Allen

If you would like to take lessons from any of the SWANGO performers, here is the contact information for the SWANGO teachers who have sent us their info to date.

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