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Three takes on tango in Beijing

By Mike Peters (China Daily)

19:25, April 07, 2013

(China Daily)

They always say it takes two to tango, so "they" will get more than they bargained for at a colorful exhibition hosted by the Uruguayan embassy at Beijing's Capital Library through Monday.

Tango Oriental: Three Visions of Tango in Uruguay packs a visual punch in the hands of the three artists behind it.

Tango in Uruguay? Who knew? If you learned everything you know about tango from watching Al Pacino (or Marlon Brando) at the movies, get ready for the real thing at its roots.

Though Argentina has become more synonymous with the flamboyant partner dance, tango got started in the Rio de la Plata border area between Argentina and Uruguay, and the two countries jointly sought recognition of the dance as an intangible world heritage, which UNESCO approved in 2009.

But the three artists in the show each bring something special to the dance floor.

Photographer Pedro Lombardi gives the art a retro flair by capturing all of his images in black-and-white, even though the pictures were shot from 2000 to 2004.

They are at once historical and lively, with plenty of street scenes, dance lessons and sultry-eyed Latin ladies to establish that tango is an intrinsic part of Uruguayan life.

Candid and natural, Lombardi's photos are just part of his fixation on this iconic dance: He has also produced a video documentary of the dance filmed in Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Paris - the last because that's where he now lives, not because of Marlon Brando.

While one of Lombardi's books on the subject is titled Sensual Tango, he may have to cede that title to one of his co-exhibitors, Daniel Machado. Machado, who is also the curator of the show and came to Beijing for the opening reception presents images that are not only in color but full of legs.

He and his lens get closer to a pair of red fishnet stockings than a man has a right to without benefit of a marriage license. The results are eye-popping, clever and fun - lots of ooh-lah-lah without being exploitive.

Oil painter Roberto Saban adds another facet to the show, with vibrant scenes that hint of claymation.

His paintings are more populated and thus feel more social than the other works, but they maintain an intimate whimsy that will make most viewers want to put on some dancing shoes.

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