What is Argentina’s most successful export? Aside from the excellent Malbec wines produced in the high-altitude conditions of Mendoza province, and perhaps football deities like Messi and Maradona, only one answer remains: the passionate Latin dance which originated in working-class districts of Buenos Aires. Tango has become something of a global phenomenon, reflected in the proliferation of dance classes, concerts and tours of highly polished performances designed to give international audiences an introduction to this element of Argentine culture. Tango Pasión has made an institution of exportable tango, adapting the most famous porteño tangos to entertain audiences worldwide for 20 years.

The first half opens gently with Gardel’s legendary ‘Mi Buenos Aires Querido’, and continues with highlights like ‘Ojos Negros’ and ‘El Choclo’ against a milonga (dance hall) setting brought to life by flirtations and jealousies between the characters. A complete transformation comes in the second half: night has descended, ramping up the passion and the daring of the choreography. Shimmering, sequinned evening dresses add a classic elegance which is missed in the first half. Overall, the dancers give solid, entertaining performances, although the movement is often stilted and lacking in technical complexity. This show is a long way from true Argentine tango as seen in the free expressiveness of Buenos Aires’ milongas and open air performances, and the city’s glitzy and technically stupefying professional shows.

What the show lacks most, though, is passion – which is particularly unfortunate given its title. Tango, when done well, provides an incredibly sensual experience, both for the closely intertwined dancers and for the audience. It is through the careful execution of movement and interaction between the couple that skilful choreographers and dancers are able to draw out an intense eroticism. Unfortunately, artistic director Osvaldo Ciliento felt, perhaps because the show is aimed at international audiences, the need to make this sexuality obvious, particularly in the memorable scene where female dancers cavort in stockings and suspenders.

There are some redeeming features. We get a comprehensive introduction to the dance and, just as importantly, the music of tango.  Singer Vanini Sol Tagina gives evocative, resonating performances, complemented by the orchestra which is directed by Gabriel Merlino, her husband and the lead bandoneon (accordion). They bring talent and a sultry romance to the spectacle, which partly compensates for the dancers’ lack of passion. Overall, though, the attempt to amp up the sexuality leaves the show feeling overblown, and degrades the whole performance.

Tango Pasión was at Richmond Theatre on 28 November, and continues its UK tour until 7 December. For more information on venues and dates, visit the Tango Pasión website.