Tango, to the Pointe


Tango, to the Pointe: the Unrestrained Eruption from Death

This piece rises like a phoenix out of the ashes of ballet and the rubble of tango.

-Shuman Zhang (Montreal Rampage)

Posted on June 11, 2022. Written by Shuman Zhang (Montreal Rampage)

“Every time we perform, a pointe shoe dies,” say Erin Scott-Kafadar and Alexander Richardson, the artists from PointeTango. Both received their ballet education in Montreal. After two years of Covid restrictions, Scott-Kafadar and Richardson are ready to take back the stage with their performance piece “Tango, to the Pointe” at the Montreal Fringe Festival .

From pointe shoes to stilettos, this sultry duo’s astonishing artistic vocabulary features authentic Argentine tango fused with ballet. “It was kind of like a game at first to be able to dance on two different shoes and see how it might work. It pushed us to create something unique and new,” says Scott-Kafadar the co-founder and the principal dancer of PointeTango.

Richardson, the director, choreographer, and other principle dancer of PointeTango says that company emerged from the question: What happens when classical ballet meets Argentine Tango? Before meeting Richardson and making the choice to dive into the world of Argentine tango, Scott-Kafadar was a ballerina touring with Le Jeune Ballet du Québec and with Ballet Ouest de Montréal’s production of classical ballet pieces such as “The Nutcracker.”

When a classical ballerina met an Argentine tango choreographer, an unrestrained artistic eruption happened, resulting in “Tango, to the Pointe.” In the piece, Richardson and Scott-Kafadar draw on their lifetime of dance experience. The show showcases Scott-Kafadar’s classical ballet training and Alexander’s crazy obsession with tango. In this piece, the gorgeous ballet dance skills and the strong emotion of Tango are intertwined perfectly. Their emotions are so vivid, it is as if they are bringing people back from death. And the show truly is born from the death – the death of enormous pointe shoes.

Interestingly, this performance can be interpreted from a feminist perspective. The steps of tango are traditionally male-dominated. But in this performance, the core position of female dancers in tango is transformed by Scott-Kafadar’s fiery footwork. In addition, in rebellion against ballet where most lifts are dominated by men, in Tango, to the Pointe, there is one powerful lift dominated by the female dancer. Finally, although the voice-over is male, the narrative perspective is feminist. The narrator makes fun of men. It’s a masterpiece against gender dichotomy in classical ballet and Argentine tango.

This piece rises like a phoenix out of the ashes of ballet and the rubble of tango. No matter how Scott-Kafadar and Alexander pirouette, leap, and bourrée, their love of dance, and for each other is at the centre.

Tango, to the Pointe

“It’s flirty. It’s funny. It’s excellent.”

“Smoking hot”

“Wow. Just wow.”

-Rachel Levine (Montreal Rampage)

Posted on June 12, 2022. Written by Rachel Levine (Montreal Rampage)

I thought of leaving a one word review: Wow. But really this piece deserves a few more. Here are some that come to mind: Go see it. Don’t miss it. <3<3<3. This is a romantic dance piece with a 1920s vibe that brings together ballet and tango and the result is smoking hot. Every detail has been curated to perfection — the lights, the costumes, the hair, the music/spoken word. It’s flirty. It’s funny. It’s excellent. The two dancers, Erin Scott-Kafadar and Alexander Richardson, are so skilled that they make even technically challenging movements seem like fun. While watching, I kept thinking of the famous line “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels.” In this case… Scott-Kafadar does it in pointe shoes. Damn, girl, that strength, that training. But, make no mistake, Richardson is a perfect match for her. They smoulder together. Try and score a ticket if you can.

Tango, to the Pointe takes place on June 14 and 15 at the Monument National (1182 St Laurent Blvd).

A Night at the Fringe-For-All 2022 (Post Pandemic Edition)

“One showcase that really stood out for me and the entire audience was by PointeTango’s production of “Tango, to the Pointe”, which masterfully fused two types of dance: tango and ballet. After their two minutes, the couple who performed the dance got a loud standing ovation; it was the first time I ever saw such a reaction in my 10 years of witnessing the Fringe-For-All.”

Stuart Nulman’s Grapevine

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

By Brian Carroll on June 15, 2022 (Apartment 613)

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.

Photo by Mark Ruddick

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.

Photo by Pablo D. Zamora

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.

Photo by Mark Ruddick

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.