On Wednesday 30 January, Argentinian company Tango Fire presented its latest production to a delighted audience packing London’s Peacock Theatre. With superb choreography by the young, talented Germán Cornejo, also a remarkably fine dancer in the show, Flames of Desire offered two hours of sheer and intense entertainment. Tango dancing, in many of its varieties and styles, was the central element of an evening where the small live orchestra of four musicians and a singer played a secondary but essential role. Jesús Hidalgo’s round, warm voice allowed him to interpret the passionate tango songs with unpretentious intensity and emotion. In addition, the skilful instrumentalists delivered a performance full of freshness and sincere affection for the five elegantly dressed couples dancing to their syncopated rhythms. The presence of their truthful notes in the atmosphere increased the memorable impact of the choreography.

Flames of Desire was clearly divided into two very different parts. In the first half, the set was decorated with a red velvet backcloth that evoked the atmosphere of an Argentinian dance hall. The orchestra was on-stage and some tables and chairs surrounded the dancing floor. The performers played the role of dancers having fun with the rhythm of tango. This first part was completely devoted to showing the wide range of styles and moods that tango can convey. The flaming desire alluded to in the title and so prototypically representative of this type of dance was certainly present but it was aptly combined with other type of feelings such as playful joy, candid innocence or shared enjoyment. The choreography was very lively and the alternation of duets, ensembles and songs provided variety and dynamism. Each number had a small connecting thread, such as an innocent kiss being sought, or a fan or a hat being passed from hand to hand. In this evening’s performance, all five couples demonstrated that they can excel in dancing tango. Their movements were incredibly fast and extremely clean and a subtle but firm characterization provided a distinctive personality to each couple.

After the interval, the scenery changed. On an empty stage, the orchestra was still placed at the back but only the lighting effects added some warmth to the dancing bodies. The absence of props entailed the loss of the unifying motives that had been so effective in the previous section. The emphasis shifted to the exhibition dancing that mixes tango with acrobatics and ballet. The choreography was dominated by breathtaking lifts and poses that the ten dancers performed with brilliant virtuosity. They were equally fluent in the classic tango steps and in the movements borrowed from other disciplines. However, they seemed a bit under-rehearsed in some of the more complex steps. The effort to perform them was too visible to be entirely effective. At this point, there were also a few lighting mistakes, though these did not diminish the impact of the show on the committed audience.

In all, Flames of Desire proved to be an outstanding production, cleverly choreographed, excellently performed and warmly accompanied by a live orchestra. The evening was highly enjoyable, though I preferred the contagious joy and vitality of the tango dancing in the first part to the awesome astonishment of the acrobatics in the second.