What legs, and what feet: stabbing quicksteps, deep swooning lunges, legs entwined in flashing kicks and hooked poses. The Argentinian company Tango Pasión, back in Britain with a new show, sets out to show a full range of tango. There are hints at history, even an animated virtual tango, but it all fades beside the exhibition duets.
Each couple gives a different accent to the scissored legs and lush torsos. Those swivelling kicks, for instance. If one couple do them teasingly, snapping a heel between a partner's thighs almost as an after-thought, the next pair kick so fast, so freely, that tango almost resembles jive. An older couple are less supple in the upper body, but still have bitingly sharp feet.
One duet starts with tiny steps. Feet and hips twist slightly and very deliberately, before melting into backbends and lunges. Then there's the couple who link legs, and stay hooked as he sweeps her up, around his body, back and up again - soaring lifts from tangled dancers.
The musicians are just as extrovert. The Sexteto Mayor orchestra has two accordionists, one demure, the other flailing his instrument like a coiling snake. They also have the singer/ dancer Yeni Patino, who braces herself into a pose, then suffers stupendously in a rich, husky voice.
Cesar Coelho, new to the show, is spotlighted in several solos. He has a lovely soft movement style, and his solos tend to suggest other dance styles - balletic jumps, flamenco arms. Both focus on the line of the upper body, rather neglecting those dazzling feet. He's better when he draws those flamenco lines into a duet.
There are several solos, several male competition dances. They all lack the bite of those duets. It's the same with the little tango dramas - several women confronting one man, Coelho leading one woman away from a group. The basic duet tango has such variety, so many confrontations between partners, that the dramas look watered down by comparison.
Tango Pasión gets weaker when it strays from pure concert dance. There's the virtual tango for computer-generated dancers animated by Shelley Eshkar, who has made gorgeous digital designs for Merce Cunningham, but his tango looks surprisingly dated.
The show's structure implies an historical overview, from tango's origins in the brothels of Buenos Aires up to the present. Really, this is an excuse for more outrageous costuming: the sequinned caps, feather boas and cigarette holders suggest nightclub extras from an Agatha Christie TV special. This doesn't look like a brothel, and the show doesn't give me much sense of tango history. Mauve or pinstriped suits give way to evening dress, gold sequins to black. Moves become slightly more spectacular, but steps and music don't change.
It doesn't matter too much. Tango Pasión has terrific dancers, even when it surrounds them with variable production effects. There's still the music, the swooping couples and their sensational feet.