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Dance Review

Uneven 'iTango' sizzles in spots

The touring show, with couples performing separately and as an ensemble, is sponsored by the national Argentine Tango Society. The touring show, with couples performing separately and as an ensemble, is sponsored by the national Argentine Tango Society.

When Sergio Cortazzo and Soledad Rivero tango, there are moments when the heat of the dance seems to fuse their bodies into one entity. But instead of raw sensuality, they offer the white heat of passion restrained: They dance as if they can never allow themselves to fully vent the intensity within. Tightly connected yet impeccably controlled, they move with seamless elegance, their fervor exploding only in the brilliant scissor kicks that slice between each other's legs with the precision of a machine.

Cortazzo and Rivero are one of seven couples featured in the touring show "iTango" (playfully named in hopes of achieving the popularity of the iPod and the iPhone.) Lest you think of the extravagant "Tango Argentina" and "Forever Tango" productions, this show, sponsored by the national Argentine Tango Society, is a scrappy, low-budget, feel-good affair simply staged and directed by Alicia Cruzado.

The show is quite uneven, and Sunday's matinee at John Hancock Hall was plagued with technical glitches. But it was only the second performance, so that can be forgiven, especially since the production trades glitzy production values for some of the best pairs dancing tango has to offer. And it's driven by the tight, colorfully expressive seven-piece Color Tango Orchestra, led by bandoneon player Roberto Alvarez.

The show's standout is petite Guillermina Quiroga. Dancing with Claudio Villagra, she displays a strong ballet background that gives her tango work breathtaking sweep. Villagra can lift her in a soaring arabesque or drape her over his shoulder, her pliant back molding to his body. Yet the two can also skitter through impeccable footwork, Quiroga's flexible hips twisting madly, her legs often corkscrewing behind her like a pinwheel on warp drive.

Cesar Coelho and Natalia Lucarini, the show's emotional "love hurts" couple, dance as if they cannot be apart yet can barely look at each other. Their first duet features flamboyant sequences of acrobatic spins that send her up and around his shoulders. One lift was stunning, the other two dangerously close to wipeouts.

Miriam Larici and Hugo Patyn are similarly athletic and dramatic, their coupling inflamed by smoldering glances and macho posturing. They have more of the traditional push-pull angularity, with whip turns and jagged shifts. Yet significantly, they dance (as do all the couples) as equal partners, rather than manipulative man and acquiescent woman. Their ending sequence, in which he unrolls her in a horizontal spin between his legs, is a showstopper.

Charmingly comic yet skillful duets by Los Hermanos Macana reflect a time when a lack of women forced men to hone their dance skills with each other. Septuagenarians Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau, skillful proponents of the looser "tango fantasia," give impressive evidence that "you're never too old." Nineteen-year-old Roberto De Carre offered two soulful love songs as intermezzi.

The weakest sections of the show were the ensemble numbers, though they offered a chance to contrast styles. But Cruzado should ax the cheesy ensemble opener, with the orchestra buried behind the curtain. Why hide one of your greatest assets?

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At: John Hancock Hall, Sunday afternoon