Tango Femme

MIDSUMMA: A light-hearted and humorous show exploring the world of lesbian ballroom dancing.
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Tango Femme is a light-hearted and humorous show exploring the world of lesbian ballroom dancing and the specific roles of ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ that go hand in hand with this traditionally gender-focussed activity.

Helen (Rhyannon Grace) is a slender blonde femme and an alluring dance teacher who runs the Golden Apple dance studio. Together with her band of wayward lesbian students, they manage to samba, waltz, tipple and tango all the way to an important dance competition, though not without many twists and turns of the heel along the way.

Initially, Helen decides that her students aren’t ready for the challenge of competing, and even contemplates closing her school. But with a whole lot of enthusiasm and a good old fashioned raffle the group persuades her to keep the school open and to let them keep dancing.

It’s good that they do, because from out of nowhere a breathless and mousy librarian named Lannie (Ruth Katerelos) appears with a bag of apples, some sewing skills, and the kind of common sense that this groups of feisty girls needs.


But with the butch Val (Niki Pidd) constantly fighting with her political student of a daughter Scarlett (Flame Acacia Kimbell); the two Belles with their matching piercings (Eleanor Bally & Eloise Maree) constantly cooing at each other; and the rather too passionate Gertrude (Kristen Adriaan) loving everything she comes into contact with, it’s no wonder that Lannie runs off screaming at a million miles an hour.

Will she come back? Will she fall in love? You’ll have to see Tango Femme to find out.

While I give the writer, director and cast full credit for bringing this piece of theatre to life, and while I acknowledge its humour, and the gender-based political commentary that its author is making, unfortunately this production didn’t work for me theatrically on many levels.

Firstly, it was too long, with too many entrances and exits. The characters were underdeveloped – particularly the mother/daughter relationship between Val and Scarlett. The costumes were under-utilised – the only time we saw any glitz or glam was right at the end of the show, when the whole time a rack of ball gowns was hanging there doing nothing. And finally there was not enough dancing given the theme and title of the show – certainly not enough to knock my socks off anyway.


Perhaps I was expecting something else – more spectacular dancing and less talking; more burlesque (as the show’s publicity claims it contains) and less drama; more glamour and less tights, headbands and shorts.

But my expectations aside, if you’re the kind of person that likes to dance, watch others dance, or just dreams of being a dancer, then perhaps you should give Tango Femme a whirl.

Wishing Well Productions present Tango Femme
La Mama Theatre, January 18 – February 6

Written by Merrilee Moss
Directed by Brenda Addie
Produced by Ruth Katerelos
Design by Jase Cavanagh
Performed by Kristen Adriaan, Eleanor Bally, Rhyannon Grace, Ruth Katerelos,
Flame Acacia Kimbell, Eloise Maree & Niki Pidd


Celebrating queer culture
January 16 – February 6

For more details including ticketing information please see the festival’s Arts Hub event listing.

Melynda von Derksen
About the Author
Melynda is a Melbourne based freelance photographer, arts manager and fashion stylist who enjoys creating her own projects and reinventing herself on a continual basis. Graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1996 where she majored in technical production in theatre, she has worked as a lighting designer, stage manager and theatre all rounder for many of Melbourne's best known creative companies. Eager to expand on her professional career, in 2004 she undertook a post graduate degree in arts management at the University of Melbourne. Since then she has worked in the area of arts administration and has used her skills to coordinate many successful cabaret events around town. As well as being part of the La Mama family for almost a decade, she continues to stick her finger in every type of creative pie that life has to offer. She is currently researching and writing a photographic book based on the history of the Melbourne Punk scene (1977 - onwards), which she hopes will be published in the next few years.