This weekend, dance aficionados can choose between two of the most popular contemporary motifs: tango and jazz.
The New Orleans Ballet Association will present “Tango Fire,” a 10-member tango ensemble from Argentina, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on Saturday (Jan. 27). And, at the Marigny Opera House, the Marigny Opera Ballet performs “Jazz Ballets,” three original dances in the jazz style on Thursday, Friday and Sunday (Jan. 25, 26 and 28).
Here are the details:
Led by the internationally renowned tango partners, German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi, “Tango Fire” was founded in 2005 and has toured the world, winning numerous competitions and awards.
The tango evolved from dances popularized in the brothels, dance halls and gangster underground of Buenos Aries in the late 1880s, combined with other dance forms brought to Argentina from African and European immigrants. Its popularity peaked in the 1940s and ‘50s and enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s that has continued ever since.
For their NOBA performance, “Tango Fire” will present a 27-piece program danced by 10 couples, led by Cornejo and Galeassi who dance together in six of the pieces. Several other pieces are danced by the entire company and selected couples.
A wide array of Argentine composers will be represented. A four-piece band consisting of bandoneon (accordion), violin, contrabass and piano will perform the dances and three instrumentals. Vocalist Jesus Hidalgo will sing four solo numbers.
“The tango has different flavors,” Cornejo said. “It was born in the streets (of Buenos Aires) and is a way of communication. It can involve improvisation also. The roots of tango are improvisation.
“When you go to a milonga (dance hall), you can tango in your own way,” Cornejo said. “Of course, there are rules and techniques but you can improvise. It’s an artistic show. You need to dance very close and coordinate with your partner. It has a lot of intricate moves and all of these movements are very difficult.”
The performance begins at 8 p.m. Music director Matias Feigin will give a pre-performance talk at 7:15 pm on the Mezzanine Level of the theater.
In what might become an annual tradition, Marigny Opera Ballet is reprising its popular “Art of Jazz” dance concept from last season.
Said Marigny Opera House executive director Dave Hurlbert: “When we did it last season every performance was sold out, and the audiences loved them. A lot of jazz musicians have performed here, and some of them asked us for the opportunity to play for the dance company. So this is a way to create a synthesis of the jazz New Orleans is known for and the ballet part of what we do here.”
For three nights, beginning Thursday (Jan. 25), the company will perform three original dance numbers designed and choreographed by Kellis McSparren-Oldenburg, Gretchen Erickson and Diogo de Lima. The pieces by Oldenburg and Erickson are receiving their premieres and de Lima’s number is being reprised from last year, “by popular demand,” Hurlbert said.
Oldenburg’s piece, “Tells,” involves six male dancers simulating a poker game, which gets animated and tense as it progresses. Music is performed by composer/saxophonist Rex Gregory, along with a cellist, pianist and bassist.
“Silk and Smoke,” Erickson’s creation, makes use of three couples against a thematic backdrop of Western films directed by Quentin Tarantino. The music is written by guitarist Russell Welch who performs with two other guitarists, a violinist and a bassist.
De Lima’s “Wary Heat” is described as a “sensual, celebratory dance” designed by the Brazilian-born choreographer. It is performed to music by Nutria, a New Orleans jazz trio consisting of Byron Asher on clarinet/saxophone, Trey Boudreaux on double bass and Shawn Myers on drums.
NOTE: There will be no performance on Saturday (Jan. 27) due to the Krewe du Vieux parade through the Faubourg Marigny.
WHAT: A performance of tango dances by an Argentine company sponsored by the New Orleans Ballet Association
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 27)
WHERE: Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts
1419 Basin St. (Louis Armstrong Park)
INFO: (504) 522-0996. nobadance.com
WHAT: A series of three original jazz dances performed by the Marigny Opera Ballet
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday (Jan. 25 and 26), 7 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 28)
WHERE: Marigny Opera House
725 St. Ferdinand St., New Orleans
INFO: (504) 948-9998. marignyoperahouse.org