After years of being the dance pros to the stars on "Dancing With the Stars," Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy shine center stage in Broadway's "Forever Tango" which opened Sunday (July 14).
Of course they have wracked up tons of awards and everyone knows who the true dancing talent is on the ABC show, but to see them unfettered by those who can't dance, and owning the stage at the limited engagement at the Walter Kerr Theatre is a huge treat.
Not a word is spoken during the show; none are needed.
It is more of a recital with different couples each performing classical Argentine tango.
An 11-piece orchestra, including four accordion players, stays on the bare stage. Five-time Grammy winner Gilberto Santa Rosa, a hugely popular singer in the Latino market, breaks up the dance numbers, singing in Spanish. The crowd cheered when "The Gentleman of Salsa," entered, and he's terrific.
This, however, is the dancers' show.
Broadway is no stranger to using TV and movie stars to boost a show. But Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy are so incredibly talented that this is no stunt. Once a couple, they still smolder in this, the sexiest of dances.
The other dancers, particularly Juan Paulo Horvath -- who gives off the attitude that only a dance captain, who had been a principal dancer with an internationally ranked company, could muster-- are magnificent.
There's a reason Luis Bravo's show has been wowing audiences in each inception. It opened on Broadway in 1997 and was returned for four months in 2004. This revival is booked through Sept. 15.
The performers are serious, to the point of somber, never letting any emotion cross their face. Their concentration is total and there was not one missed step, one count off, one missed turn.
While dance is usually precise - no one pays to see a sloppy dancer - this, with its stark stage, and nothing to distract - must be an example of military precision. There's none of that extended arms and roses between the teeth as one imagines with the tango.
Each dance is so sensuous and so private that the dancers don't really seem to care that the audience is there. Rather, it often feels as if perhaps we should not be there; as if the dance is foreplay and being there feels a bit voyeuristic.
When you consider how so many people wear so very little in concert, and that's supposed to be sexy, "Forever Tango" shows how it is possible to wear long sleeved gowns, gloves, stockings and be smoking.
And it's in that hotter than should be legal category that Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy reign. I can't vouch that every move they execute is a classical tango move, and the rest of the dancers certainly have that covered.
When the DWTS stars have their second solo, in the second act, and he lifts then dangerously drops her, coming within a fraction of the floor, when they move to that 11-man orchestra there can be no doubt that they are indeed the stars.
Photo/Video credit: Forever Tango