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The PointeTango dancers. Photo provided.

Let’s get (Tango) to the point(e)—you won’t want to miss this dance show

By Brian Carroll on June 15, 2022

Last year, PointeTango Dance Company toured the Canadian Fringe circuit, receiving critical acclaim and positive audience reactions. This year PointeTango brings a new show, Tango to the Pointe, for their first Ottawa Fringe. Brian Carroll interviewed Erin Scott-Kafadar and Alexander Richardson of PointeTango about their upcoming Ottawa Fringe performances.

‘Tango to the Pointe.’ Alexander Richardson and Erin Scott-Kafadar. Photo provided.,

Apt613: Although this is PointeTango’s first performance at the Ottawa Fringe, you’ve been on the Canadian Fringe circuit before. (Last year’s) Winnipeg Fringe reaction to PointeTango was very enthusiastic. To what do you attribute that positive reaction?

Alexander Richardson: One of our specialties is our uniqueness. We’re the only company in the world that can dance authentic Argentine tango while Erin is on classical pointe shoes. [Editor’s note: pointe shoes are ballet shoes with a hard reinforced toe, so the dancer can balance on their tiptoes.] 

What we’ve done is taken something very traditional, very authentic, and captured that essence. I spent the last eight years living in Buenos Aires in Argentina. We’ve modified [tango] and adapted a new vocabulary with some of that elegance, the speed, the lines, the dynamic qualities of ballet.

So we’re able to appeal to people that want exciting explosive lifts, spins, jettées, bourrées, you name it.

But equally, on the flip side (we) do something very intimate, very traditional, showcasing the culture of Argentina with as much respect and humbleness as we can.

Erin Scott-Kafadar: I think people appreciate that, ‘cause all of our choreography is our own. Our style of dance is our own as well and unique. I think people like to see something different and we’re offering a different style of dance that we’ve created. I like to think that we have a good chemistry on stage which touches people.

As the company name implies, you draw on both ballet and tango styles of dance. What led you to this path?

ES-K: We come from classical ballet backgrounds and Alex dove into the world of tango about 20 years ago. We were a couple 10 years ago and we both danced, but we wanted to work together. So how can we work together? How can we create something new and innovative? We decided to combine our classical training, but with all the improvisation that comes from Argentine tango. We wanted to combine our two favourite dance styles to make a new dance style.

Erin Scott-Kafadar and Alexander Richardson. Photo provided.

AR: The main emphasis for me to create PointeTango the Dance Company was to take the best of both worlds. Argentine tango has this incredible, intimate, passionate quality that can be lacking from the technical aspects of solo work of classical ballet. And equally, classical ballet just has these expressive lyrical arms, the legs, the feet, this exceptional technicality and quality that equally at times can be lacking from the improvised qualities of Argentine tango. When you put that quality on stage, sometimes it’s not that dynamic. So we really search for where are the points where they intersect. How can we draw out the best qualities from these two worlds and blend them together with as much respect to both disciplines so that both can still shine?

When PointeTango steps out of both the tango and the ballet traditions, some of the movements appear to be dangerous. There’s no safety net. How do you thrill the audience while keeping the dancers safe?

ES-K: Well, I have some bruises. I’ve whacked Alex in the face quite a few times.

AR: I almost have a black eye today.

ES-K: We think that his nose is crooked now,

AR: I would say we try and push ourselves to our maximum physicality and we take as much preparation as we can. But we take as many risks as we safely can.

ES-K: If we’re learning a new skill that’s dangerous, we’ll condition our bodies. We’ll train many, many hours up to a year to build up, to be able to do a trick safely so that we’re consistent at it. We have good technique and we’re not whacking each other in the face. We train really, really hard – about six hours a day, five days a week. It takes us about a year to create a new show. There’s only two of us. We don’t have understudies, so we’re very conscientious to build up our skill and our physicality to be able to do these tricks.

The PointeTango dancers. Photo provided.

Last year’s Winnipeg Fringe was online rather than in person, so your production was filmed with musicians participating in many of the scenes. This year you’re touring the Fringe circuit live. What can the audience expect from this year’s new live production?

ES-K: What’s unique with this show Tango to the Pointe is that it is all on pointe. Except for maybe one or two instances. Usually we do more of a combination, but this year we really wanted to showcase what PointeTango is. Which is really the combination of Argentine tango danced on pointe. So this is something new for us…

AR: …to do a whole show in that manner. A side note that people don’t know is Erin has custom made ballet shoes, pointe shoes. About $140 (a pair) and it’s destroyed after one show.

ES-K: So I have this case of just pointe shoes that I’m bringing on tour with me. It’s gonna be interesting to go through airport security.

Do you have a show or two that you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s Ottawa Fringe?

ES-K: For sure, we would like to go see Keith perform (At the Table with Keith Brown). And our good friend Keith Alessi, who’s bringing his Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life.

The Ottawa Fringe festival runs June 16 to 26, with Tango, to the Pointe opening June 16. Check out the Fringe website for all information on show listings, ticketing, and health measures.