They don’t call it “Forever Tango” for nothing. The internationally popular tango show conceived and directed by cellist Luis Bravo has been going for more than two decades. Developed in 1990, the show first hit Broadway in 1997 for what was expected to be an eight-week engagement. It ended up running for 14 months and was followed by three different revivals, with tours around the world in between. The latest incarnation of “Forever Tango” was at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre over the summer, just closing mid-September before hitting the road for a tour that brings it to Boston this week, beginning Tuesday. A combination of dancing, spectacle, and dynamite music, “Forever Tango” features 14 dancers, a singer, and an 11-piece orchestra onstage, including Bravo himself on cello. In a recent phone conversation from Argentina, he chatted about his enduring show.
Q. “Tango Argentino” was the first tango show on Broadway, and I know you played in the orchestra for the show for a couple of months. When did you get the idea for “Forever Tango,” and what did you want to do differently?
A. I don’t know that I wanted to do something different, I just wanted to do my own version. The starting point for my show was completely different. I had my own perspective from playing with the great tango musicians. The production I’m doing here is to create some scenes and subliminal stories to music that inspires me. It is something that I did for the pleasure of playing with my colleagues, and also to work with the dancers I’d known through playing in tango clubs in Argentina. I didn’t have a certain dream, I just wanted to play tango, and the success just kind of rolled over me.
Q. Why are people so drawn to this dance form?
A. Tango, especially in today’s world, is something that through the embrace keeps the male and female together. It is the most powerful combination because it creates life. Both the roles of man and woman are absolutely clear, and that’s appealing and seductive to the audience. Not every popular dance has that particular form.
Q. The show has been on Broadway four different times and toured to Europe, Asia, the Middle East as well as across America. Why do you think it translates so well from culture to culture?
A. Because it is about man and woman and the passion and the music, and that’s relatable to every culture — the sadness, the drama. It is very wide and colorful in expression. It’s all about humanity.
Q. The dances are a collaboration between you and the different couples who perform. How much has the show changed since its first incarnation in 1990?
A. As much as I change as a person and an artist. I keep bringing in different musicians and dancers, so it changes all the time, though the formula is very simple. It’s like an illustrated concert. The orchestra plays the music, and the dancers put the humanity between the music and the audience. We like to say tango is a story you tell in three minutes, and we have 20, 25 stories in our show. As new people come in, the show keeps changing with different repertoire, different choreographies, different stories.
Q. When you choose performers, what qualities are you looking for?
A. Personality. That’s what it’s all about — their character, identity.
Q. The music is as important as the dance, yes?
A. Yes, the dance is the image, and the music is the atmosphere. I’m a musician, so everything is built from the music, and [there is a lot of] crossover in tango. The music itself describes the history. We have the Jewish music, we have the German, the gypsy, the flamenco, music from the Pampas, the Caribbean. So it’s a mess, like Argentinian society, so full of contradiction and so unstable emotionally. The music changes every 10 bars. There’s always a subliminal message, always an insinuation, always conflict. Tango is not just a dance, it’s a whole culture, a way of life, the way we Argentinians speak, the way we live, the relationships, the competition.
Q. The show mostly focuses on tango’s darker, more smoldering, side — the violence and loneliness. Do you think there’s room in tango for joy?
A. I think there’s always room for joy in every art form, for whatever we human beings create. Darkness is always there, a lot of drama and emotion. It has a very intense charge. But there’s always a gentle treatment, the man toward the woman, the woman toward the man. And we do some very comic choreographies, which is very difficult in tango. It’s not all about darkness. I think it is also full of brightness, life, color, expression.
Q. Do you see this show going on — forever?
A. As long as I’m alive, there’s always a chance.