by John Stoehr
The Charleston Ballet Theatre open Twisted Tango last night, a hot-blooded mix of Latin movement and classical ballet. Dance critic Kinsey Labberton went to check it out. After catching her breath, she sent us this review. —J.S.
Some Like it Hot
CBT ends Twisted Tango panting
By Kinsey Labberton
The dancers were breathing heavily as they took their bow. The hourlong intercourse that was Charleston Ballet Theatre’s Twisted Tango was over.
But while the house lights were up, both the sold-out audience and company seemed to want to linger in the afterglow. Choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr’s program, a fusion of tango and classical ballet, was more than just a melding of genres.
It was seduction on stage.
The tango is an erotic conversation in which partners embrace at the sternum. Their faces cheek-to-cheek, contact is always maintained, bodies always touching. Bahr incorporated these traditional elements into sleek ballet movement made sensual by the CBT company’s grace and athleticism.
But what sets Bahr’s choreography apart isn’t just its technical demands but its desire to offer a moving narrative as well. Twisted Tango gave us a love triangle that was ready for pay-per-view, except the dancers were fully clothed.
The cast emerged to the sounds of “Tango Libre.” Six pairs of men and women, matched in purple Lycra outfits, pulsed and twisted evocatively when, from a (somewhat burping) smoke machine, three principle dancers emerged.
Stephanie Bussel, clad in a red shirt and flowing asymmetrical skirt, played a woman torn between the affection of bad boy Roy Men Wei Gan and the softer, gentler Michael Fothergill.
This is not Days of our Lives set to music, however. The soap opera cliché, well-worn in romantic dance choreography, was never felt in Twisted Tango. Bussel does not pirouette around Gan then grande jete into Fothergill’s arms, overdramatically batting her eyes.
Rather, Bahr created a very real tension between the three dancers. Bussel continually fights off Gan’s advances. Like a controlling pimp, Gan thrusts her in strong lustful movements. Fighting to get free, she slaps him. Fothergill, the caring hero, then arrives to cradle Bussel in his arms and carry her off stage.
It’s the inclusion of multiple shorter pieces that really evokes the sexual nature of Twisted Tango. “Uno Plus Dos,” featuring the lithe Trey Mauldwin, Melissa Weber, and Nicole Harden, was particularly sensual. Mauldwin, who audiences may remember as the soloist in CBT’s Nine Lives, gave a steamy performance that garnered wild applause mid-show.
A qualm worth mentioning is the uninventive and rather dated set. Metal scaffolding and pastel-colored lighting feel very Dance Party U.S.A. I wondered for a minute if the company might emerge from the wings in sweatbands and pink legwarmers only to demand that we “open the door, get on the floor, everybody rock that dinosaur!”
Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Instead Bahr’s alluring Twisted Tango, like a good lover, left me satiated — and even a little flushed.