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Avantango - Tango for Valentine's Day
-Onstage with the Dancers

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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 14, 2004
Originally Published on

Pablo Aslan's

Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street

World Music Institute

Production Management by Sounds Like Art, Inc.

Musicians: Pablo Aslan, Bass; Hector Del Curto, BandoneĆ³n; Oscar Feldman, Saxophone; Roxana Fontan, Vocal; Leonardo Suarez-Paz, Violin; Diego Urcola, Trumpet; Gustavo Casenave, Piano.

Dancers: Mariela Franganillo, Jorge Torres, Pablo Pugliese, Shiwa Noh.

Costume Designer: Martin Churba and Tramando Casa Matriz; Lighting Designer: Traci Klainer; Costume Assistant: Tchera Niyego.


Derviche, by Pablo Aslan

Zum, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Franganillo and Torres

Deus Xango, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Pugliese and Noh

Vuelvo Al Sur, by Astor Piazzolla, Pino Solanas
Singer: Fontan

Adios Nonino, by Astor Piazzolla, Eladia Blazquez
Singer: Fontan

East St/ Louis Toodle-oo, by Duke Ellington, Bubber Miley
Dancers: Franganillo and Pugliese

Rockin' in Rhythm, by Duke Ellington, Harry Carney
Dancers: Pugliese, Torres, Franganillo

Verano Porteno, by Astor Piazzolla

El 92, by Gustavo Casenave

Sabateando, by Pablo Aslan

Milonga Loca, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Pugliese and Noh

Sublevados, by Fernando Otero
(See Otero Performance Review)

Escualo, by Astor Piazzolla
Dancers: Franganillo and Torres

New Tango, by Oscar Feldman

Malena, by Lucio Demare, Homero Manzi
Singer: Fontan

Milonga en el Viento, by Pablo Ziegler, Eladia Blazquez
(See Ziegler Performance Review)
Singer: Fontan

Amadeo, by Pablo Aslan
Dancers: Franganillo and Torres

Beto, by Pablo Aslan
Dancers: Pugliese and Noh

La Calle 92, by Astor Piazzolla

Libertango, by Astor Piazzolla, Horacio Ferrer

Every Valentine's Day is now quite special, thanks to Pablo Aslan, Tango bassist, and his Avantango ensemble of seasoned and sensational Tango musicians, who play Aslan's own compositions, as well as those of Astor Piazzolla, of Gustavo Casenave, his pianist, of Fernando Otero, a well known Tango/Jazz pianist/composer, and some traditional Tangos, as well. In addition to the magnificent and eclectic musicians, Pablo Aslan brings with him an array of Tango dance performers. This year, Mariela Franganillo was the familiar face to those who know Tango just from these performances at Town Hall. The new faces, already familiar to Tango aficionados in New York and Buenos Aires, were Jorge Torre), Shiwa Noh, and Pablo Pugliese.

The performance program above includes several of Mr. Aslan's compositions for Tango band and for dance presentation. In fact, Mr. Aslan has a new CD on the market, called Avantango, and it is causing quite a sensation in the Tango and Jazz communities. Dario Eskenazi is the main pianist on the CD, but tonight the virtuosic Gustavo Casenave was sole pianist. Roxana Fontan, who performed on vocals tonight, is also a familiar face in the Tango circles, and she never sounded better. Vuelvo al Sur resonated with sensuality and sexuality. Ms. Fontan is a striking presence and wore an exquisite black dress for this song. Earlier, Shiwa Noh and Pablo Pugliese danced in an emotionally violent duet to Piazzolla's Deus Xango that created angular and unusual choreography.

The band's performances that did not include dance were just as sweltering and edgy, without the visually sultry Tangos. Hector Del Curto, on bandoneĆ³n, is a master at Piazzolla, Aslan, and Ziegler, as he has performed with these three master composer/musicians - one a bandoneonist, himself, one a bassist, and one a pianist. Pianist, Gustavo Casenave composed El 92, also performed by the band tonight, and this piece was decidedly more jazz-infused, with a new music motif that was energizing and electric. Violinist, Leonardo Suarez-Paz, whose father was Piazzolla's violinist, was, as usual, magnetic and tremendously original in all of his improvisations and interpretations of Aslan's, Piazzolla's, and Casenave's compositions. Oscar Feldman on saxophone and Diego Urcola on trumpet added a vibrant tone and jazzy depth to tonight's selection, especially in the two Duke Ellington works.

However, the sexiest steam onstage was generated by Mariela Franganillo and Jorge Torres, two virtuosic performers with stage presence and charisma par excellence. Last year, Ms. Franganillo was paired with Antonio Cervila, Jr., in a more athletic choreographic display. This year, with Mr. Torres as her partner, Ms. Franganillo exuded more playfulness, seductive qualities, and pure steam heat. In Rockin' in Rhythm, Ms. Franganillo flirted in dance with both Mr. Torres and Mr. Pugliese, who is a slight, but muscle-bound dancer with superb flexibility and agility. After some engaging and comedic routines, Mr. Torres swept Ms. Franganillo off her feet and off the stage. Ms. Franganillo is a very exciting dancer to see, with total concentration and theatrical as well as Tango performance and choreographic skills. She heats up the stage with leaps, spins, upside down extensions, and predatory walks that perfectly matched Mr. Torres' animal magnetism and intense masculinity. Mr. Torres, in the traditional Milonguero costume, replete with fedora, is a smooth dancer, who effortlessly spins and lifts his partners.

Malena was sung by Ms. Fontan with extreme angst and drama, and the band backed her up with surprising softness and evocative, ethereal elegance. Pablo Aslan's bass solos had a chemistry all their own, as he knows his music, his musicians, and his audience. Mr. Aslan had grace and generosity onstage, as he often complemented his onstage band, as well as Ellington and Otero. Fernando Otero's piece had commanding jazz inflections, reminiscent of Bernstein and Gershwin. Beto, Mr. Aslan's tribute to soccer, found Ms. Noh and Mr. Pugliese dancing with water bottles and wild energy. Piazzolla's La Calle 92, about 92nd Street in NY, included street and traffic allusions, as well as staccato effects.

Avantango is now a Valentine's Day tradition in New York. This is a show for everyone: Tango dancers, Tango aficionados, and the general audience that craves energy and passion. I recommend purchasing the CD, Avantango, just to hear this amazing ensemble, with Ms. Fontan as vocalist. I also recommend looking for Pablo Aslan and his band in the Clubs and Museums in New York and beyond. Meanwhile, kudos to Pablo Aslan and World Music Institute for this everlasting production called Avantango.

Photo courtesy of Sol Aramendi

Photo courtesy of Sol Aramendi

Photo courtesy of Sol Aramendi

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at