Back in November 2015, World Music/CRASHarts presented Fernanda Ghi’s This Is Tango Now in “Carmen de Buenos Aires” at the Institute of Contemporary Art. A few things have changed since then. World Music/CRASHarts is now Global Arts Live. This Is Tango Now has been superseded by Fernanda Ghi Dance Company. And Ghi’s new production, “Black + White,” is being offered at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Virginia Wimberly Theatre. “Black + White” is just as ambitious as “Carmen de Buenos Aires”; the same storytelling-through-tango problems persist, but the visually impressive show makes for an entertaining hour.
“Black + White” is danced by four men and four women, including Ghi, who left Argentina in 1997 to perform internationally and eventually co-founded the Artango Dance Studio in Brighton. The piece is presented in four scenes: “Loco amor loco” (“Crazy Love Crazy”); “La luna y vos” (“The Moon and You”); “Soñando” (“Dreaming”); and “Invocación” (“Invocation”). Each scene is backed by a black-and-white photograph from the Cuban-American artist Andrés Mario de Varona. Three scenes are danced to music by the great bandoneón player and composer Astor Piazzolla, the fourth to a piece by Richard Scofano. There’s a transition section between each two scenes, plus an opening “Juego de las sillas” (“Musical Chairs”) and a change-partners-and-dance finale.
That might seem material for an entire evening, but “Black + White” runs just 50 minutes, with no intermission. And though a voice-over warns us not to overthink, there isn’t always enough to think about. Varona’s photos are enigmatic: a curled-up nude seen from the back; a table with a pair of high-heel shoes on it. More voice-overs whisper, in English and Spanish, thoughts like “The moon is a womb that gives birth to the day, to light, and to love.”
But the dancers, with the women sporting identical black pageboys, seem interchangeable, and the scenarios are basic. “Loco amor loco” pits a bridal couple against a woman in white who has designs on the groom. In “Invocación,” a woman seems undecided between two men, who wind up going off together as lovers or friends. “La luna y vos” is just a tango duet.
“Soñando,” however, could keep you up nights. Here the female half of the couple is swathed in an immense gauzy white veil. You wonder if she can breathe, never mind dance. Eventually both man and woman shroud themselves and dance, as if they were ghosts. After she exits, the other three men kneel to form a sofa and the male half of the couple lies down, mimicking the Varona photo of a shrouded figure on a white sofa. We’re invited to wonder who’s the dreamer and who’s the dreamed.
“Black + White” is packed with movement, mostly tango extended with what resemble ice-dancing moves. In “La luna y vos,” the couple’s scything legs demonstrate how tango is all about personal and shared space. And the third transition is a tour de force where the four women use a band of stretchy material to form a kind of boxing ring that they keep taut with their bodies while they tango with the men. The dancing is superb throughout, but as a theatrical evening, “Black + White” needs more gray.
Black + White
Choreography and artistic direction by Fernanda Ghi. Performed by Fernanda Ghi Dance Company. Presented by Global Arts Live. At Virginia Wimberly Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, Oct. 11. Remaining performances: Oct. 12-13. Tickets $58. 617-876-4275, www.globalartslive.org
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org