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DANCE REVIEW : ‘Tango X 2': Lively, Uneven

TIMES DANCE WRITER

Ten years ago, “Tango Argentino” rehabilitated a debased dance idiom, revealing a scope, depth and bitter irony in traditional tango expression that U.S. audiences never suspected. Created by Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs, “Tango X 2" reinforces that achievement without proving anywhere near that distinguished.

First off, the amplification at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Wednesday proved consistently ruinous: so assaultive that it nearly wrecked every attempt at intimacy, spontaneity and atmosphere. A pity, too, that Daniel Binelli (bandoneon), Marcelo Chiodi (saxophone) and Julio Grana (violin) all had solos that crossed the border from pleasure to pain through no fault of their own.

Presented by the Philharmonic Society, “Tango X 2" didn’t offer the range of ages, body types and individual styles that “Tango Argentino” made so memorable. Instead, it primarily showcased Zotto and Plebs, who joined the earlier show after its New York run and have grown into spectacular exponents of the volatile, high-speed, crazy-legged tango duet.

Their credibility remained limited, however, in expressive challenges and their group choreography less than purposeful, except for the all-male “El Puro Guapo” ensemble and the “Kiss of Fire” encore. Of the subsidiary couples, Lorena Ermocida and Omar Merlo made an impression only in their flamboyant reconstruction of a 1941 Veloz and Yolanda film duet, while Natalia Games and Gabriel Angio excelled in the very fast and twisty “Orillera” milonga and looked drop-dead dishy throughout the evening.

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The showiest foray into tango dance-drama (and eroticism) came in “Tocata Rea--Tangata del Alba,” with Zotto and Merlo simultaneously partnering Plebs, her arm embracing one of them while her leg stroked the other. Like most of Zotto and Plebs’ group efforts, however, it lost focus and heat as it continued.

Singer Roxana Fontan gamely tried just about every kind of tango ballad but sounded richest and most convincing in Carlos Gardel’s “Guitarra Mia.” Emphasizing black, red and bare thighs, the uncredited women’s costumes provided quite a show on their own.

* “Tango X 2" repeats tonight at 8 in the Veterans Wadsworth Theater, Veterans Administration grounds, Brentwood. $9-$31.50 (sold out). (310) 825-2101. On Sunday at 7 p.m., it plays the California Center for the Arts, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido. $20-$45. (619) 738-4100 .


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