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Quintet brings alive the music, motion and passion of the tango.

Forbidden Dance

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Today it seems that everything Latin is hot — including Latin flavors in food, music and politics. Tango is hotter. Once banned by the Catholic Church, tango music is to Argentina what Big Band jazz was to the United States — a crossover between popular music and the influence of the orchestra. Alexandria-based QuinTango's upcoming performance at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen will showcase this international music as five conservatory trained musicians present an evening of music and dance that promises to "transport the listener to a place they don't usually go." In the words of QuinTango's director, Joan Singer, that is " an emotionally saturated place - full of romance and passion." Tango music, defined for many by its "da-dum-ba-dum-dum" rhythm, is the music of an immigrant people - the result of the mix of European expatriates - Russian, Spanish, Italian and German - who brought their musical cultures with them to a new life in Argentina at the turn of the last century. As a musical style it became popular throughout Europe. But it was introduced to this country largely by the travelling French group Tango Argentino, who, in the 1980s, brought the music to American audiences and showcased the dancers and performers of the tango's golden age, the 1930s and '40s. QuinTango is a quintet made up of two violins, cello, double bass and piano that is joined in this performance by two tango dancers. The idea for QuinTango was conceived when director Joan Singer was "totally seduced" by the Tango Argentino show of the 1980s. Since then, QuinTango has performed for The Smithsonian Institution, the National Theatre of Costa Rica, the Embassy of Argentina, the Organization of American States, the Department of State and the White House. According to Singer, these "passionate performers who love emotionally rich music" will give you an opportunity "to take time out of your ordinary life to indulge your emotional side — an opportunity to add tango to your life." Friday's performance will contain traditional tangos including "El Dia Que Me Quieras" by composer Carlos Gardel and the traditional "La Cumparsita." QuinTango will also perform "Por Una Cabeza," the tango chosen for the famous tango scene in "Scent of a Woman" with Al Pacino, and for Arnold Schwarzenegger in "True Lies." The Richmond audience also will be the first in Virginia to hear "Pisciano" by contemporary tango composer Osvaldo Berlingieri, the impresario behind the Tango Aregentino show that inspired QuinTango's formation. Rounding out the performance are four works by modern tango composer Astor Piazolla, well-known for his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma and the Kronos Quartet. Piazolla stands out from other tango composers because of his formal classical education in Paris under Nadia Boulager, who taught everyone from Aaron Copland to Phillip Glass. "In fact," says Singer, "it is thanks to her that Piazolla ever wed his knowledge of the traditional tango with his love of Bach and Bartok, giving us the modern tango." Singer says that no matter what your tastes in music — classical, jazz or other — tango is "very accessible" and "will provide a contrast to our efficient and mechanized life" with "the heartbreak, desire and pulse-quickening poetry that is tango."

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