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Sounds of Passion

Such sensuous sounds and sexy steps seduced even a sightless Pacino.

You’ll recall Al sweeping across a ballroom floor with a dazzled partner in “Scent of a Woman,” demonstrating why the tango — limbs in fluid synchronicity, passion powering each elegant hip swivel and deep, suggestive dip — is dancing’s answer to foreplay.

“It’s very passionate music,” says tango maestro Oscar Carrescia. “All around the world, tango is very in fashion.”

Musical fashionistas can file into the Winchester Cultural Center on Sunday when Carrescia, a classically trained Las Vegas violinist who hails from Argentina, takes the stage with his Trio Buenos Aires for an afternoon tango edition of the World Vibration concert series.

Along for the rhythmic ride are singer Liliana Dominguez, who has sung at Argentina’s presidential palace, and bandoneon player Coco Trivisonno, who has performed alongside Placido Domingo, Herb Alpert and Stanley Clarke and contributed to the soundtracks of the films “21 Grams” and “Batman Forever.”

“Oscar is a master in his own right, and he is bringing people renowned in Argentina for their tango skills,” says Irma Wynants, cultural specialist for the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department. “But a lot of people think of tango as just dance. Most people who call us are asking, ‘Will you have dancers?’ Yes we will, but it’s mostly about music. Great music has been composed for tango. I don’t know why people disconnect them. The music was first, before the dance.”

The Winchester series strives to tap the music of all groups that comprise the ethnic quilt of Las Vegas, and most concerts, Wynants says, draw audiences largely from their own communities. But a tango presentation three years ago defied that rule, attracting a multicultural crowd.

“Tango appeals to a wider audience that really goes to cultural thinking and ideas,” she says. “It’s so international.”

As with numerous popular genres in countries across the globe, tango emerged as the music of the underclass and immigrants — who often have a higher cool quotient than the uptight, upscale natives — in Argentina in the mid-19th century. Among early enthusiasts: criminals and brothel patrons. The American equivalent might be jazz, the soundtrack of cathouses before the Duke (Mr. Ellington, as you know) and the Count (Mr. Basie, of course) gave it class.

“It was for the lower-class in the beginning,” says Carrescia, a musician since age 11 who relocated to the United States in 1962 and founded the Youth Camerata Orchestra in Las Vegas in 1986. “Then it started getting more sophisticated, and the music and the composers improved.”

Consistent with its gritty roots, tango was long linked to a down-and-dirty-dynamic, as Argentinian writer Ricardo Guiraldes observed in a poem that likened it to an “all-absorbing love of a tyrant, jealously guarding his dominion over women who have surrendered submissively, like obedient beasts.”

Sexism and misogyny set to music? Let’s just say Gloria Steinem wouldn’t have shaken her booty to it.

“Yes, that’s true,” Carrescia says about early tango lyrics that went way beyond today’s political incorrectness to political what-are-you-nuts? And he points out whose regime, unsurprisingly, removed the sexist sting.

“In the time of (Eva) Peron, many of the lyrics of the tango had to be changed because of putting the woman down, they had a prohibition on them. But there are many tangos that are clean of that, very romantic.”

Tango’s rise to respectability in the socio-economic circles that once spurned it actually predated the Peron era, the music gaining more acceptance in the 1920s despite lyrics that blamed women for every romantic heartache. Its “golden age” stretched from the mid-’30s to the mid-’50s, paralleling America’s swing era, during which several big bands incorporated tango into their repertoires.

And in the ultimate uppercrust validation, the music shattered the classical music clique, its rhythms and motifs spurring the imaginations of composers including Erik Satie (“Le Tango Perpetuel”), John Cage (“Perpetual Tango”) and Igor Stravinsky (“Histoire du Soldat”).

“Many of the tango composers, they are classically trained,” says Carrescia, who performed with Stravinsky as a member of the National Symphony of Argentina from 1960-62. “In the early days, it was more simple. Once classical music intervened, tango music got more sophisticated.”

That status upgrade spread from musicians to dancers. “The early tango dancing was for their own relaxation and entertainment, social dancing,” Carrescia says. “But the professional tango dancers, they really are ballet dancers. When they do tango, they want to stick with tango.”

Known as the “Dance of Desire,” the tango might even have helped introduce that other Oscar to Pacino.

Can we get a “hoo-ah”?

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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