|Title||Tango di Luna|
|Venue||Teatro Franco Parenti, Milan|
|Date||29 October 2022|
Luciana Savignano would probably loath to read a review that begins by stating her age, but here goes… Savignano is a few days shy of her 79th birthday and she is still dancing… and not only dancing well but inspiringly and hypnotically. Astonishingly her arms still ripple like heat haze over desert sands, her large square shoulders are rigorously (and regally) held down, she has wonderful lines from fingers to toes, and is still, what was once called, double-jointed.
Her extraordinary physical qualities of suppleness gave, and gives, her dancing an almost insidious quality which goes against her well-known modest and kind-hearted personality. Although as a principal dancer at La Scala she danced Giselle and Swan Lake, she shone more in roles such as John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew and the Siren in Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son. However, it was as an interpreter of works by Maurice Béjart – and he created several for her – that she is most celebrated. It was a collaboration that began in 1973.
The piece she danced at Teatro Franco Parenti in Milan, with added double shows at the weekend because the theatre was sold out, has been created for her by long-term collaborator Susanna Beltrami based on tango steps, which has inspired them both in the past. The setting for Tango di Luna was a tanguería, with the audience looking on from all four sides of a long narrow set, a dancefloor, which had small tables with lamps and flowers. Swishing costumes flicked over those in the first row, as we were up close and personal. Savignano had splits to the thigh in some of her (various) costumes, with no tights, and bare back and arms, as though she was proudly saying: this is what my body looks like and this is what I can do with it. Of course, she’s as thin as a rake so she has no extra kilos to lug around, but at no point was she carried by her ‘boys’ to make it look as though she was moving (we’ve all seen that trick). No, she certainly moved – and how! Quick tango leg and footwork, a deep backwards cambré, and with some balletic movements thrown in – at one point, on a stool, she raised her leg to a 180-degree arabesque as she leant on the shoulder of her partner kneeling on the ground.
Two younger men – Fabrizio Calanna and Matteo Esposito – worked well and hard, but it was two older men who dominated the performance space. The Argentinian Alejandro Angelica (who now lives in the UK) plays one of the regulars at the tanguería and teaches the unknown woman the steps (she appears without shoes at the beginning, asking, “Is it here you can dance the tango?”). They challenge each other, and with his eyes he seems to be daring her to go further – her response being that of a (sexy) slinky, leopard moving in for the kill, reminding me of Fred Astaire’s comment on Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon: “She came to me in sections.” Matteo Bittante was excellent as a brittle, camp maître d’ at the beginning, preparing the locale for the customers, and then later a fine partner.
The choice of music – thankfully not all Astor Piazzolla – was eclectic and atmospheric, as was the silence between pieces where every eye movement could be seen… every breath heard.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.