Take women in slinky slit skirts and stilettos, wrap them around pomaded males in rakish suits, dim the lights and what you get is a pulsating performance from "Tango x 2," the 9-year-old Argentine dance troupe which, in a return engagement to L.A., wowed the first-night audience at the Pantages Theatre.

Take women in slinky slit skirts and stilettos, wrap them around pomaded males in rakish suits, dim the lights and what you get is a pulsating performance from “Tango x 2,” the 9-year-old Argentine dance troupe which, in a return engagement to L.A., wowed the first-night audience at the Pantages Theatre.

Four couples performed, in various groupings, numbers suggestive of everything from the sexually kinky, to the wittily wanton, to the downright seamy — in other words, the tango. In one routine, a pimp and a prostitute parade around a stash of cash; in another a young man abandons his soccer ball for an energetic balletic romp with his sweetheart. In yet another, legs shimmy up and down other legs so swiftly the audience hardly has time to take it all in.

The show spans practically the entire history of the tango, with its backstreet beginnings in the brothels of Buenos Aires, to the more refined nightclub nuances acquired during the tango’s heyday in Paris in the ’30s, on to the rustic and witty variants of the milonga style of tango dancing.

All the numbers were choreographed by Milena Plebs and her partner and former husband Miguel Angel Zotto, both of whom had past stints with the similarly internationally successful Tango Argentino troupe a decade ago.

The accent in this show is decidedly darker and more intimate, highlighting the more erotically charged aspects of the dance — some of the dramatic finales of the numbers left the audience gasping.

Throughout, the pomaded couples interlock arms and legs in a series of technically precise and dazzlingly sharp moves — hooks, gauchos, kicks, grapevines, lunges, swivels and pivots — all executed with a brand of defiant cool unique to the tango.

The couples each bring their own approach to the performance, helping to vary the pace and tone of the proceedings. In one sequence, a slick couple suggests the glamorous allure of nightclub ambience, in another a coarser duo is caught up in the physical urgency of their moves, and in still others, the dancers engage in a highly controlled syncopated seduction.

Full-throated Roxana Fontan punctuated the proceedings, often accompanying the dancers’ moves. Her rendition of “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” was particularly affecting. A full tango band — conducted by a master of the bandoneon, a sort of Latin concertina — performed with gusto both Carlos Gardel classics like “La Cumparsita” and more modern numbers such as Astor Piazzola’s “Libertango.”

Stage lighting was appropriately stark and dramatic, with the band spotlighted on a raised platform behind the dancers; the women’s costumes were varied and shimmering.

Tango X 2

Pantages Theatre, Hollywood; 2,869 seats; $ 48 top

Production

ICM Artists presents a dance performance in two parts produced by Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs.

Creative

Musical director, Daniel Binelli; lighting design, Colette Barni; costume design, Renata Schussheim, Miguel Angel Zotto, Milena Plebs. Opened, reviewed Sept. 16, 1997; runs through Sept. 28. Running time: 1 hour, 50 min.

Cast

Company: Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs, Carlos and Alicia, Erica Boaglio and AdrianAragon, Osvaldo Zotto and Lorena Ermocida.
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