Tanguera, Sadler's Wells, London
Triple Bill, Royal Opera House, London
Le Corsaire, Royal Opera House, London

When a form speaks volumes by itself, it doesn't need tacky red lighting and dry ice to tell its story

Tango may be macho and even sexist, but it certainly isn't ageist.

The guest star dancer of Tanguera, the hit show created in Buenos Aires nine years ago and now at Sadler's Wells, is Maria Nieves, 75 years old. Immediately recognisable with her gamine cropped hair and long legs, she will be remembered by London audiences from Tango Argentino, a couple of decades ago. Here she plays the role of a brothel madam, in a narrative that bewails the sad fate of destitute immigrants, fleeing a harsh future in the Old World.

When Giselle (Leticia Fallacara) sets foot off her ship, she is swallowed up by the lowlife of La Boca, Buenos Aires's docklands, the birthplace of tango, with its corrugated tenements, sleazy bars and drug-dealing, brawling compadres. There are no surprises as she falls into the clutches of a pimp and becomes a tanguera (tango dancer) who sells her body. The voice of singer Marianella underlines the narrative (with helpful surtitles) and a band plays live for the first time in the show's history.

Actually, tango doesn't need all the tacky red lighting and dry ice, even if La Boca was full of smoking factory chimneys and nicotine addicts. It doesn't need a narrative either, as Tango Argentino, with its mesmerisingly contrasted couples, well understood. Tango, with its fusion of eroticism and sadness, speaks volumes by itself. The man may lead, but the woman has to agree to follow, so that each partnership is a dense dialogue, a negotiation of moves, now fast and furious, now slow and languorous. Each dance has the consequent ability to be completely different, legs flashing like flick knives or fork lightening, a foot slowly caressing the floor, the woman corkscrewing round the man's body, or subsiding to the floor in arched obeisance. The choreographer Mora Godoy varies the duets with solos and ensembles, but the movement lacks light and shade and is overwhelmed by the narrative episodes. This is tango filtered through the commercial aesthetic of a musical.

Over at the Royal Opera House, the Bolshoi gave us Yuri Burlaka's wonderful reconstruction of Petipa's Grand Pas from Paquita, where the variations are all about contrast. Petipa wanted each of his ballerinas to shine in jewel-like solos wrought finely around their individual qualities. In the fourth

variation, Natalia Osipova floated sensationally through her diagonal of jetés, a swallow cruising on currents of air. But today's other Bolshoi ballerinas don't assert their personalities, while, for all their classical correctness, the lead couple, Maria Alexandrovna and Nikolai Tsiskaridze, barely raised the temperature above warm.

Also on the Triple Bill and more suited to the present company is Alexei Ratmansky's glorious Russian Seasons, a tribute maybe to the Nijinska-Stravinsky masterpiece Les Noces. Originally created for New York City Ballet in 2006 and set to a 12-part score for orchestra, solo violin and soprano by Leonid Desyatnikov, Ratmansky's ensemble dances; the huge, space-cleaving movement suit the Bolshoi manner. The stage, empty save for a coloured backdrop, suddenly looked as big as the world. In it, joyous couples mix their modern classicism with the folkloric and religious resonances of Old Russia, and hint at the rites of mortal life.

The third ballet is the Ballets Russes classic Petrushka. The Ballets Russes never performed in Russia and I don't know the provenance of Russian productions of Petrushka. But Western productions directly from Ballets Russes luminaries such as Diaghilev's regisseur Serge Grigoriev and the ballerina Lubov Tchernicheva. By contrast, the Bolshoi's seems cruder. The solos for Petrushka, the poor, awkwardly built puppet, have been beefed up with explosive leaps and scissor jumps that gild Ivan Vasiliev's reputation as a virtuoso, but contradict the choreographer Fokine's naturalist principles which declare that movement should match subject.

In the Bolshoi's painstakingly reconstructed version of the Petipa-Mazilier Corsaire, Nina Kaptsova and Ivan Vasiliev gave the evening some oomph with their Pas des Esclaves. Nikolai Tsiskaridze was an effectively exotic Conrad, all flashing teeth and black curls. But Maria Alexandrova's Medora and Marianna Ryzhkina's Gulnare needed more differentiation. And with so much clutter – the obtrusive decor, the long list of characters, the endless dances – I left the theatre reeling. Less is definitely more.

'Tanguera' (0844 412 4300), to 22 Aug

Next Week:

Nadine Meisner swings into Le Cirque Invisible – without a safety net

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire