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
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event

music
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star