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Quartet San Francisco Brings Tango to Life


by Danielle Georgiou 19 Nov 2010

The amalgamation of dance and live music has fallen to the wayside in recent years due to the tight economic climate and the logistical issues in coordinating performers’ schedules. Yet, there are some exceptions. The Quartet San Francisco (QSF), along with professional tango dancers Sandor and Parissa, have made it a priority to continue the tradition of incorporating live music.

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Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a dance lecturer at the University of Texas Arlington. She also serves as assistant director of UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.

The amalgamation of dance and live music has fallen to the wayside in recent years due to the tight economic climate and the logistical issues in coordinating performers’ schedules. Yet, there are some exceptions. The Quartet San Francisco (QSF), along with professional tango dancers Sandor and Parissa, have made it a priority to continue the tradition of incorporating live music. They bring their latest effort, Tango!, to the Charles W. Eisemann Center in Richardson on Saturday.

Quartet San Francisco; Cohen on right

QSF is the brainchild of Musical Director Jeremy Cohen. While working in the San Francisco Symphony’s education department, he was performing for tens of thousands of students a year and noticed that the audiences “responded in a significantly different way to music that was a part of their life experience.” This gave him the idea to start a string quartet that programmed music directly from lifetime experiences. “I knew that two things would happen,” Cohen says, “One, people would immediately connect with the music without thinking about the fact that they were hearing it from a string quartet, and two, hearing QSF play would encourage listeners and fans to discover the very rich and diverse world of string quartet literature.”

Audiences have responded beyond Cohen’s belief, and the work of QSF has been recognized nationally and by the music industry: the group’s 2006 Latin and tango CD, Latigo, received Grammy nominations for “Best Classical Crossover” and “Best Engineered, Classical.”

While Cohen was creating QSF, dancers Sandor and Parissa met surreptitiously at a dance studio in Los Angeles in 2000. “He saw me through a window rehearsing with a dance company I was performing with at the time,” Parissa recalls. “Sandor had been touring around the world for over a decade and had decided to settle in Los Angeles. … He asked if I would be interested in working with him, and since I already knew about him and was a big fan of his work … of course, I agreed.” Ten years later, they are happily married and continuously work and perform together.

Sandor and Parissa

The collaboration between the artists developed from a friendship between Sandor and Cohen. They met while working on the original production of Forever Tango (1995-1997). Sandor was a principal dancer, Cohen, the first violinist. After the show closed, and Cohen established QSF, he contacted Sandor to see if he was interested in developing a performance of an Argentine tango. That was in 2002, and they have been performing a tango series together ever since.

Tango is close to all of their hearts, particularly Sandor’s. Born in Buenos Aires, the world capital of tango, dance was the philosophy of his life. “I always had an appreciation for meaningful and authentic human emotions expressed through art, and the tango itself embraces all of those elements,” Sandor says. The accompanying music echoes those sentiments and “delivers exactly what the dancers need to hit all of their physical marks,” Cohen says. The music is iconic, and to see it performed with the dance that is inherently tied to it is an experience.

This collaborative process is an important and valuable aspect for both QSF and Sandor and Parissa. It has allowed all of them to expand and develop their repertoires and collectively explore new areas of music and performance. “It’s collaboration from within as well as outside the group that keeps it going on an uphill path,” Cohen says. “It’s not everyday we get to experience dancers flying by us while we play this thrilling music. The shows are always a grand event when we add dancers to our set.”

Parissa echoes his sentiments.

“Anytime more than one person is involved in putting together something, teamwork and collaboration is essential for a successful outcome. It is always good to be open-minded and get the input of all the people you work with. It only makes us all stronger as a cast ensemble.”

Tango! will have its Texas premiere on Saturday at the Charles W. Eisemann Center. It’s presented by the Plano Symphony Orchestra. Tickets range are $13 to $75 and can be purchased online.

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