They face each other, man and woman, hearts pounding as the piano, violin and accordion play out the syncopated rhythm.
In an arms-length embrace, they glide as one across the dance floor, stepping in beat to the music, before turning in a sweeping motion.
All that’s needed is a Zorro-like mask and a rose clenched in between the teeth.
This scenario is what many people imagine when they think of the tango – or at least, the Dancing with the Stars version of the classic Argentine dance.
Montreal musician Romulo Larrea hopes to educate and enlighten on that perception.
He has been bringing the traditional music and dance that dates back 150 years to the lower class districts of Buenos Aires, and to Larrea’s birthplace of Montevideo, Uruguay, to Canadian and worldwide audiences now for the past 40 years.
Larrea, who leads his self-titled ensemble to perform Tango: A Passion of a Lifetime at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Oct. 18, says the fiery ardor and sure footed-ness of the traditional art form is what audiences will see, and not the made-for-TV versions of the tango, so often seen in the media.
“I am most proud to integrate the old country traditions and with my idols of tango so that when people see it they say ‘Ah, that’s tango,’” said Larrea.
With the word coming from the Latin “tangere”, meaning touch, tango is the language between two people and the restraint and sensuality that is created in this erotically charged art form.
A composer and musical director, Larrea is arguably Canada’s own tango maestro.
“People are associating my name with tango,” said Larrea. “It is an honour when they say tango arrived (to Canada) in me.”
Larrea dreamed up the concept for Tango: A Passion of a Lifetime several years ago, and has since worked tirelessly in preparation for its debut.
He created the show so that a first timer to tango would get as much out of the experience as someone who knows the dance and its accompanying repertoire.
The project boasts brand new repertoire composed by Larrea and the whole performance is led by Larrea on bandoneón, which is similar to a concertina, or small accordion, and has that melancholy sound synonymous with the tango.
Larrea was given his first bandoneón by his father at the age of 10, and began studying the instrument with Professor Rolando Gavioli in his native Montevideo. In the 1960s, Larrea formed his first ensemble, began composing, recorded his first album and worked with several orchestras in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
After settling in Quebec in the 1970s, he founded one of the very first tango groups in Canada.
At the end of the 1980s, Larrea worked with master tango composer Astor Piazzolla in South America. When he returned to Montreal, Larrea made his debut as a soloist with the Quebec Symphonic Orchestra and developed a new musical approach that led to the creation of the Romulo Larrea Tango Ensemble.
With the ensemble, Larrea has performed to audiences around the world: New York, Rome, Luxembourg, Buenos Aires, in the Netherlands, and throughout California.
“No matter where we are, on what stage, in what country, the show is always the same: world class, real tango,” he said.
The performance in Vernon will include Larrea and his ensemble as well as two professional tango dancers slicing the air with their legs, in what will be one of the first times the dance has been presented in its true form as part of the dance series at the Performing Arts Centre.
“We are honoured that Vernon will be included in this tour of moving melodies, rapturous dancing, as traditional tango makes its mark on our local stage,” said the centre’s artistic director Erin Kennedy.
Tickets for Tango: Passion of a Lifetime are $35/adult, $32/senior and $30/student at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469. This show can also be purchased as part of the dance series subscription package. Visit www.ticketseller.ca for more information.