Matthew Amer puts on his dancing shoes once more and releases his inner South American with Midnight Tango.
Roll back a decade and if you had asked me if I would like a tango, I would have expected a sugar-crammed citrus drink to be delivered by a bright orange man with a penchant for cheek slapping. How times have changed.
These days, with the rise of the Saturday night behemoth Strictly Come Dancing, the country knows its American Smooth from its Foxtrot and when once ballroom dancing was seen as the preserve of slightly odd middle-aged couples, it is now as on trend as Superdry clothing (no, me neither, but I’m reliably informed).
Midnight Tango is the latest choreographic caper to build on the resurgence of interest in all things dance, putting the Argentine Tango at the centre of a show created by Strictly’s own cheeky Italian Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, whose winning dimples alone would win over the most dance-hating curmudgeon.
Cacace, who meets me at the Aldwych theatre where I receive my own introduction to the intricacies of the Argentine Tango, is very clear that when the pair began to create the show, they didn’t want it to be Strictly light. “We didn’t want to use mikes. We didn’t want to interact. We wanted it to be theatre, a story,” she explains.
Rather than the well trodden path of dance punctuated by banter, Midnight Tango offers a tale of love and lust in a Buenos Aires bar. Fitting for a dance which, Cacace tells me, “is a social dance, a street dance, created in clubs”.
This gives me hope. A dance created in clubs by ordinary people from the street; I may not embarrass myself too much during my lesson. I am, after all, ordinary, and though Croydon may not have the same pulsating rhythms as Latin America, I have danced in its many esteemed clubs.
It falls to cast members Leandro Palou and Romina Godoy to put me through my Latin paces. When not performing alongside Simone and Cacace, they run Tango Soul, an Argentine Tango class in Covent Garden. They’re used to coaxing nervous beginners, and when step 1 is revealed as walking forwards and backwards I start to relax a little.
It becomes more complicated when you have to walk forwards and backwards alongside a partner, and more tricky still when you throw in twisty turny Ochos and the groin-threatening Ganchos, the leg bisecting flicks that leave me quivering with fear.
Despite these being the most basic of tango moves and that I perform them with no conscious concept of the music playing somewhere in the background, the social aspect of the dance percolates out. Though I strain my levels of concentration to place one foot casually in front of the other, while my face is frowning, I enjoy myself so much you could put a blue and white football shirt on me, call me Maradona and I’d still be happy.
To fully express the idea of Argentine Tango as a social experience, Palou and Godoy freestyle their way through a dance without music, before I step, a little oddly into Godoy’s shoes – not literally – to be whisked around the floor by Palou in a demonstration of leading the way it should be done.
“We’ve got lots of choreography,” Cacace explains about the show, “but there are moments when we simply have a singer and a couple just dancing. They can do lead and follow, and it’s the more authentic style of tango. Then we’ve got some crazy choreographed numbers as well.”
I may not be quite ready for crazy choreography, but as for social tango, I might just have caught the bug. Other theatregoers should keep an eye out. If I see the space I could be throwing Ganchos around willy nilly… so to speak.