About the author:
Luis Bravo's Forever Tango first took Broadway by storm in 1997, when the Latin dance revue about the birth of the world's most romantic dance arrived on the Great White Way for what was expected to be an eight-week engagement. Instead, the show ran for 14 months and earned a Tony nomination for Best Choreography. The Argentine-born director brought the production back to Broadway in 2004 and is stepping back onto the Main Stem once again with a new incarnation of Forever Tango, featuring 16 dancers and an 11-piece orchestra alongside rotating guest vocalists and dancers. (First up: Grammy-winning vocalist Gilberto Santa Rosa and DWTS pros Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.) Below, Bravo, who will take his show on a U.S. and international tour after it wraps up its engagement at the Walter Kerr Theater on September 15, traces his journey with Forever Tango from an illustrated concert of the tango all the way to Broadway.
Intoxicating passion, in step with the unbreakable embrace of a strong and powerful lead. Entangled silhouettes, gracefully gliding in synchronicity across the floor to the unyielding and hypnotic tempo of the orchestra. Each seductive glance, caress and footstep tells the unbridled story of love lost, love found, a bygone time. This is Forever Tango.
Sensuous and sophisticated, the tango is a feeling that you dance. A story channeled through the flick of a leg, the tug of a hand, the tap of a foot, and the arch of an eyebrow. It’s passionate, yet melancholic. Tender, yet violent. You dance it with somebody, but it is so internal, you dance it by yourself. Forever Tango is music, drama, culture, a way of life. The sultry, wailing, magnetic music of the immigrant, coexisting in the same skin with the pain and loneliness of being forced to leave the misery of Europe in the early 1900s, leaves you breathless.
Forever Tango is my tribute to the immigrants who left families, wives, lovers, and children to cross the ocean, reaching for their dreams in the deepest corner of South America, Buenos Aires. They were hungry, scared and living in squalor, seven to a room. To survive, they worked in the most indecent conditions in the slaughterhouses on the smelly Riachuelo in the heart of the port city. Violence at the point of a knife and death in its streets was common.
I know these metaphors intimately.
Forever Tango, my world-acclaimed masterpiece, was created 23 years ago. It is my own personal and emotional migration from the dusty, unpaved, streets of Anatuya, the small town in Santiago del Estero I left as a four-year old in order to study music in Buenos Aires. I had the distinct honor of having a successful career as a classical cellist with Argentina's top orchestras including the Argentine Symphony and the Colon Opera's Orchestra, before playing with the prestigious Los Angeles Symphony.
My migration also had another impact; I discovered the magnetic pull of the internal migrant inside me, permanently linked to the streets and milongas (dance halls) of the tango's cradle, Buenos Aires. I seemed to find Buenos Aires everywhere.
I could be standing on a corner on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles or Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco or in Milan, and could not get over the feeling that I was standing at a corner, or sipping an espresso or wine at a cafe-bar in Buenos Aires, tearing over the notes of a tango. Then I'd stop, look around and realize: That was three or five countries ago.
Forever Tango began to emerge from this constant sense of "leaving" and the moaning sadness of my cello as I tried to find solace in the tango, and the cynical humor of the "boliches" (seedy neighborhood bars) of Buenos Aires. My own dreams filled with the tango's contradictions; the "compadritos" who worked slaughtering the animals during the long days; and at night they washed away the animal blood and hid their egos in the ritual, make-believe farce of the bordellos. There they dressed in smoking jackets, fine white silk handkerchiefs and wide brimmed hats tipped dandy style over one eye stiffly but artfully danced away reality with the pale European women who danced with them (for a price) to pay for their own survival, and suffering.
The characters possessed me. They scrubbed the misery and covered the smell off their skins with cheap, fake-French colognes, slicked their hair, spit polished their shoes and headed to the "quilombos" (bordellos) to keep alive the dream they carried in their torn cardboard suitcase, neatly folded over their picture of Mamma...so they could pretend to love.
From these haunting memories, I wrote every detail, chose each tango and milonga, rewrote arrangement that Forever Tango audiences all over the world applauded for more than 20 years. After opening in San Diego in 1990 and playing to sold out crowds in San Francisco, I took the show to London and then to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theater, captivating audiences and critics. Later, it moved to the Marquis Theater, around the corner, playing there for more than a year. Forever Tango has played in nearly every major venue on the planet, sometimes for a second and third tour. Now, fifty-something couples recall their first time watching it together, twenty years earlier. You can tell who they are; they smile and whisper in each other's ear a lot. Often their hair has changed in style and gray tones, but Forever Tango is still their one, shared, eternal moment.
Forever Tango has given much to me. Beyond the awards and honors, which include the Spoleto Festival and the Simpatia award, the tango has made my dreams come true. I found passion and love with my iconic leading dancer and wife, the brilliant Marcela Duran. We now continually refresh Forever Tango in our home in Kentucky's bluegrass country, where we raise our two daughters, Paloma (my dove) and Victoria (my triumph), and care for our stable of racing horses. A fitting curtain.
It's the two faces of the coin for the characters in Forever Tango. The tango and the race track of (Buenos Aires) Palermo and San Isidro. Some of the greatest tangos by the immortal Carlos Gardel, were allegories of love, life and barely crossing the finish line, everything on one bet. That now-famous tango danced by the Al Pacino character in Scent of a Woman is a celebration to winning and losing, "Por una Cabeza" ("...By a Head...").
When you have nothing but a dream and a tango, play it all "to win."