Not surprisingly, tango's seductive renaissance finally reached the Broadway stage. Luis Bravo, creator and director of Forever Tango, came up with the idea in the early 1990s. The all-Argentine cast consists of seven couples, an 11-piece orchestra led by Lisandro Adrover, a bandoneon (Argentine accordion) player, and vocalist Carlos Morel. Bravo, who used to tour as a guitarist and cellist, choreographs many of the dances and writes much of the music. "I grew up in a small town in Argentina, surrounded by artists," Bravo says. "Tango was more than just a dance; it was a culture, a way of life." Forever Tango combines the charm and elegance of the ballroom with the seedy debauchery of old-world Argentina. Flashy costumes, stiletto heels, sharp movements, smoldering looks, and a staccato tempo produce a tense balance between masculine and feminine. The production has bewitched more than 50 cities throughout the United States and recently returned from a tour of China, Korea, and Japan. "It's amazing to see the universal reaction," Bravo remarks. "Everywhere we go, people respond to the passion, the sadness, the hope, and the story we tell."
The show, which ran for 92 weeks at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square, runs the gamut of emotions. It chronicles the rise of the tango out of the oppressive and violent slums and into the red-hot spotlight. Each couple puts a unique twist on the dance, from comical struggles to mesmerizing embraces. The sexually charged nature of the tango is apparent, but Bravo insists it is not the focus. "The tango is a feeling that you dance, a story that is told in three minutes," he says. "It's not about sex; it's more about nostalgia. You can dance it with someone and dance it by yourself." As for the element of submission, any woman who can dance backward in five-inch heels while wrapping a leg around her partner's head or coiling around his body like a serpent is hardly in a mood for submission. The battle of the sexes never looked so captivating.