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The Independent Culture
What does tango mean to you? Jack Lemmon in drag with a rose between his teeth? A snake-hipped dental hygienist from Dagenham in spangled flares? For years the popular conception of tango was dominated by such comic grotesques. Gradually, thanks to visits by Tango Argentino and others, the theatre-going public has learned that tango as danced in Paris and Buenos Aires is more than just an excuse for a grope with a taxi dancer.

But do you have to be born within a bolas throw of Plaza de Mayo to be able to dance it properly? It certainly helps. Being big, dark, handsome and a great dancer is not in itself enough as Irek Mukhamedov made excruciatingly plain at Sadler's Wells last year

Imitation might be flattering, but choreographic tourists have fared better when they have tried to absorb the tango into their own idiom. The less slavish the imitation the more successful the homage tends to be. Laurie Booth is wise enough to know this; his Tango Variations, which premieres at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 23 March, makes full use of an extensive course of tango lessons and an inspired alliance with the Paris-based tangomeister Juan Cedron. Booth began his dancing life as a soloist (in pyjamas) in a series of ravishing controlled improvisations. He progressed to contact improvisation duets for himself and Russell Maliphant (in pyjamas) and finally to ensemble work.

Tango Variations is a piece for six dancers and music - design and choreography all represent a cunning synthesis of traditional and contemporary elements. Cedron's music is authentic but doctored by frequent Booth collaborator Hans Peter Kuhn. The dancers wear traditional pinstriped trousers but with string vests. Let's hope Booth doesn't blindfold the orchestra - it would be a shame to miss it.

`Tango Variations', 23-24 March, QEH, 7.45pm (071-928 8800)