What do you envision when you hear the word tango?
“One common misconception about tango is that the music is background,” said Claude Sim, the co-leader of Extasis Tango Quartet. “Perhaps there is an image of a woman with a rose in her mouth, marching across the dance floor.
“It’s so much more than that.”
When the quartet performs Monday night in the Bill Heard Theatre, he said they present tango as concert music, instead of dance music.
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“Perhaps one of our general goals is to show some of the true depth of tango to new audiences,” Sim said. “The music reflects a very rich culture and has an undeniable sense of nostalgia, wherever that emotional place is for the listener. It is joyous, tragic, dirty, pure, angry, tender and anything in between.”
About 10 years ago, when Evan Ormon needed to replace Extasis co-founder Erin Furbee, Sim was delighted to have the opportunity to join the Extasis Tango Quartet.
In the years since, the quartet has changed members. Now, it’s Ormon on the bandoneon, Sim on violin, Ken Harper on bass and Mike Tilley on piano. Harper is also the arranger.
And if you’ve never heard of a bandoneon, you aren’t alone.
“A bandoneon is a type of concertina instrument that has origins in Germany,” Sim explained. “It was intended for use in religious service, as a kind of portable organ. It made its way to Argentina, and is now identified as the soul of tango music. It is different in timbre than an accordion and is fiendishly difficult to play.”
Sim calls Monday night’s concert a collaborative effort.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with the Columbus Symphony and sharing our take on this passionate music with the CSO audience. Playing tango music is a stylistic challenge that we enjoy very much.”
While they are playing, Extasis will have dancers demonstrating the dance form.
“We have the good fortune of working with fabulous professional dancers,” Sim said. “They are colleagues that became good friends through the Colorado tango community.”
Several local couples will also perform Monday night. Sim is looking forward to working with them as well.
“We are always thrilled to accompany and trade inspiration with serious tango dancers,” he said.
When asked if shows like “Dancing with the Stars” have helped with the tango becoming popular, he said the resurgence of tango began long before “DWTS” began.
“Classical superstars Yo-Yo Ma and Gidon Kremer have undoubtedly brought some well-deserved attention to tango and the genius of Astor Piazzolla. For example, the ‘Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,’ Piazzolla’s take on Vivaldi’s masterpiece, has enjoyed enormous popularity in symphony halls across the United States. The film ‘Moulin Rouge’ has a version of a very popular tune called ‘Tanguera’ that we will play. ‘Scent of a Woman’ has a very memorable tango dance scene.”
Sim plays tango music. Does he dance?
“The tango is a beautiful dance that requires an enormous amount of dedication and skill for the performers involved,” he said. “I am not blessed with dancing ability, but do appreciate and admire those that have it.”