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Turning Up the Heat With Tango

Union Tanguera is a tango group based out of Lyon, France, but their hearts are rooted in Argentina.

Esteban Moreno, co-artistic director (along with Claudia Codega) and a dancer in Union Tanguero was born in Buenos Aires. He was there studying electronics and dreaming of pursuing theatre when he took his first tango class. Though tango was always in his family, he was surprised by how deeply the dance affected him. He was struck by the "incredible language" that tango was able to communicate, and it goes without saying that taking that first lesson changed his life. Moreno and the other dancers of Union Tanguera came together as an official company in 2002 and though they've built off of and have the highest respect for traditional tango techniques, the ensemble has become known for their more contemporary style of tango.

"With our ties here in Tucson to Latin culture, tango is always on my radar," says Chuck Tennes, the UApresents executive director on booking the internationally renowned company. He says that there are two things that set this company apart from the others. One was that their show was "more of production, not just the usual dancers on a bare stage."

And that's the truth. The defining factor that differentiates Tanguera's "Nuit Blanche", or "sleepless night," from other dance performances is that it's a full-on theatrical production that comes with its own storyline, scenery, lighting and original music.

The piece is centered on a dance narrative set in the '70s that depicts what happens between seven dancers at a nightclub in the wee hours of the night following a milonga. According to their program, the show is filled with "sensual abrazos (hugs) alongside hatred, desire, loneliness, hope, despair, friendship, passion, love, misapprehension, celebration and defeat. 'Nuit Blanche' explores the night, when alcohol and isolation bring people together ... and tango as the only way to let the bodies express themselves."

The second aspect that drew Tennes to the group was their music. "They travel with live musicians," says Tennes, "and there's just something a little bit more exciting about having live music."

The show incorporates a wide repertoire of tango music, almost all of which are original pieces performed by the musicians that travel with the dancers. The instruments that create the magic in their musical scores include a bandoneón, a piano, violin and a double bass.

"We love the music," says Moreno, "I'm really proud of the aesthetics; of the combination of our music, lighting, spacing and dress."

Connoisseurs of traditional tango performances and technique are advised not to avoid the show, but instead, to enter the experience with an open mind.

"My desire (with "Nuit Blanche") was to move from the traditional point of view of tango and more to the edge. To something more modern, to move forward and do a little bit more for real, normal people," says Moreno. "We love traditional tango, we dance it very often and we love the music, but in this work we were trying to get to the limits. Risking a little bit."

Union Tanguera is currently on a fairly large national tour and so far, "they've had superb reviews in other cities and they've been very well received," says Tennes. The Oregonian called partners Moreno and Codego "ravishing" and internationally, a French publication, Danseur, said that "Nuit Blanche" "intelligently reinterprets the vocabulary of pure tango."

"It's a very sensual piece, it's a very sensitive piece," says Moreno of "Nuit Blanche." "It's simply touching, even for us."

Union Tanguera will take the stage at Centennial Hall on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets for the event can be purchased at uapresents.org with prices ranging from $25 to $45.

Tatiana Tomich, mailbag@tucsonweekly.com

Unión Tanguera performs at Centennial Hall at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30.

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