Luis Bravo is a serious man of few words. Instead of verbalizing his thoughts, he lets his imagination dance through the elegant bodies who perform to the music he composes.
“‘Forever Tango’ is my tribute to the immigrants who left families, wives, lovers, and children to cross the ocean, reaching for their dreams in the deepest corner of South America, Buenos Aires,” wrote Bravo in Broadway.com. “They were hungry, scared and living in squalor, seven to a room. To survive, they worked in the most indecent conditions in the slaughterhouses on the smelly Riachuelo in the heart of the port city. Violence at the point of a knife and death in its streets was common.”
Bravo is the creator and director of Broadway’s “Forever Tango.” The production premiered in San Diego in 1990 and then hit Broadway in 1997, when it earned a Tony nomination for Best Choreography. It revived on Broadway in 2004, and it’s back in New York City this summer for a limited run through September 15 — with guest performances by singers, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Luis Fonsi.
The tango, he says, was born as a result of European immigrants settling in Buenos Aires during the late 1800’s. It was often seen danced in brothels and emanated loneliness and passion.
Bravo first moved from Argentina to the U.S. to study with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute at age 23. He has been living in Lexington, Kentucky since 2006, where he has stables for racing horses and lives with his wife and lead dancer, Marcela Duran, and two daughters. Bravo says he knows the details of immigrant life intimately and has dedicated his career to portraying these details through music, mainly tango.
“My migration also had another impact; I discovered the magnetic pull of the internal migrant inside me, permanently linked to the streets and milongas (dance halls) of the tango’s cradle, Buenos Aires. I seemed to find Buenos Aires everywhere,” wrote Bravo. “I could be standing on a corner on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles or Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco or in Milan, and could not get over the feeling that I was standing at a corner, or sipping an espresso or wine at a cafe-bar in Buenos Aires, tearing over the notes of a tango. Then I’d stop, look around and realize: That was three or five countries ago.”
Born in Añatuya, Santiago de Estereo in rural Argentina, Bravo began guitar studies at age 4, and soon after, learned the cello.
“There was a big influence of music in my house — everybody would meet in my house,” says Bravo remembering his childhood. “I was 3 when I saw a couple dance tango for the first time at a social event.”
His parents, seeing the musical talent of their son at an early age, moved to Buenos Aires, when he was 8, so that he could continue more serious music education.
“At age 19, I became the first cellist in the symphony orchestra in Argentina,” says Bravo who studied at the Municipal Conservatory of Music Manuel de Falla and the University of Buenos Aires before he moved to the U.S. to pursue the dream he seemed to be born with — creating “Forever Tango.”
Fast forward 23 years, and according to Bravo, more than 7 million people have watched the production internationally — from London to Mexico City. He says his life’s work is still not done with his beloved production however.
“Probably my whole life I’ll still be working on it,” says Bravo, who plans on continuing to work every day of his life and has some other project ideas in the works, also involving tango and Latin music. “It keeps changing.”