Tango Fusion aims for stronger foothold

Everyone knows it takes two to tango. But when the two are Diane Lachtrupp and Johnny Martinez, the
Johnny Martinez and Diane Lachtrupp of Tango Fusion Dance Company.
Johnny Martinez and Diane Lachtrupp of Tango Fusion Dance Company.

Everyone knows it takes two to tango. But when the two are Diane Lachtrupp and Johnny Martinez, the tango takes on an easy oneness that only comes with more than a decade of dancing together.

Lachtrupp described the experience as “one body, four feet.”

Martinez echoed the sentiment. “It’s so comfortable for us to be in that embrace. There is always a connection with your partner. With Diane, my life partner, it’s magnified.”

The married couple, who live in Saratoga Springs, just won a showcase division in Argentine tango at a competition in Mystic, Conn. And this weekend, the two will spotlight their unity, flow and agility with their ensemble, Tango Fusion Dance Company.

Tango Fusion Dance Company in ‘Nocturna’

WHERE: Saratoga Music Hall, 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs and the Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen St., Glens Falls

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Saratoga Springs; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 16, in Glens Falls

HOW MUCH: $22, ($25 with Saturday night tango party included).

MORE INFO: 691-0432 in Saratoga Springs, 798-9663 in Glens Falls or www.tangofusiondance.com

The company’s spring performance of tango and Latin dancing will glide across the floors at Saratoga Music Hall this weekend and the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls on the following Friday. With Martinez as the director and Lachtrupp as the choreographer, Argentine tango will, not surprisingly, dominate this year’s event. “Nocturna,” which will also involve West Coast swing, salsa, merengue, samba and rumba, will encourage the audience to get into the act, too.

Chance to participate

The Saratoga showing will get started with workshops in tango in the afternoon. And tonight, after the show, the seats will be pushed to the walls for the audience to join into a milonga or tango party.

“It’s more interactive this way,” said Martinez of the post-performance party. “We want people to not just see dance but enjoy doing it, too.”

Tango Fusion Dance Company was founded by Lachtrupp and Martinez 10 years ago in New York City. Back then, The New York Times dance reviewer called the group’s production “first-rate” and “the happiest celebration of that dance to arrive in the city for a very long time.”

When the couple relocated with their two young children to Saratoga Springs, the company made the move, too. But unlike New York, where there is an abundance of ballrooom dancers, Lachtrupp struggled to put together a cast for the company’s area debut in 2006. Since then, dancers have come and gone. What’s been consistent is Lachtrupp’s ability to play to her diverse dancers strengths.

For example, Julie Gale’s strong-suit is ballet, Christopher Kilkenny is a competitor in West Coast swing, and Patricia Zeccola is a salsa dancer who divides her time teaching in New York and Saratoga. This weekend, the cast will be joined by guest artists Oliver Kolker and Sylvania Vals, Argentine tango artists who live and work in New York.

“Everyone brings something to the party. But I’ve always found that tango fuses with jazz and ballet easily,” said Lachtrupp who created the program’s choreography. “They are natural partners.”

Musical choices

As tango is flexible, it can be paired with any kind of music. Other ballroom dances, on the other hand, such as waltz, cha-cha or samba, rely on specific rhythms.

“With tango, you can dance to a melody. It’s the consummate lead-follow dance. I love dancing tango to swing and blues,” said Lachtrupp.

In the first act of “Nocturna,” the dancers will tango to Elvis’ “Love Me Tender.” They will also be dancing, both in lightly narrative ensemble pieces and duets, to music by pianist Alan Thompson. For future concerts, Lachtrupp and Martinez hope to hire bandoneon players to perform classic tango tunes.

Lachtrupp says she has yet to find an area bandoneon player. But she admits that the company’s biggest challenge is not finding dancers and musicians but gaining recognition. As they work out of Saratoga, area dance-goers view them as local, which is not the image she wants to promote.

“We were in New York for a long time. But we are not out-of-towners anymore. We don’t have that cachet of New York,” said Lachtrupp.

While that might be considered a strike against them, Tango Fusion Dance Company is striving to make a name for itself at an auspicious time. The popularity of ballroom dancing continues to soar thanks to such television shows as “Dancing With the Stars” or “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“Dance is more in the mainstream,” said Martinez.

Still, Martinez added, to dance for a living, “you’ve got to love it. Dance is something you do because you love it.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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