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Spring Dance at London Coliseum

 

Askonsas Holt, Raymond Gubbay and Sadler’s Wells pesent

 

Dualia/La Leyenda

Photo by Jesús Vallinas

 

Ballet Nacional De Espana

 

Directed by Rojas and Rodriguez/Jose Antonio

 

London Coliseum

 

27 April - 2 May 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couzens

A review by Alexandra Carey for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

It’s a little hard sitting down to write one review about two very different shows from Ballet Nacional De Espana which are, nevertheless, served up in one heady and energetic meal. But there is one thing it is easy to say about both sections of this performance - this is inventive, ambitious dance at its best.  All of the dancers involved are technically breathtaking as you would expect, but the performance is also brimming with theatricality, atmosphere and down right attitude. Both halves are clever and sensitive, but utterly engaging and easy to enjoy too.

The company’s artistic director Jose Antonio is quoted in the programme as saying: “What I insist of the dancers of BNE is that their personalities and identities prevail. Without them Spanish dance would not exist.” This sums up two key things about this performance: 1 - It is Spanish. This sounds like an obvious point but what I really mean is its wonderful how Spanish it is, how steeped it is in traditional dance styles and rooted in what it means to be really Spanish, how unashamed it is to put those styles alongside other influences and create something interesting and dramatic and very unpretentious. 2 - these are performances from individuals working together. There is nothing of the finely tuned homogeneity you can often see in other large classical dance companies, and while such precision is important, it seems equally important to BNE that they represent the truth of human variety. These performances feel very human and truthful, without lacking anything in spectacle or virtuosity. Even down to their wonderfully designed costumes bespoke for each dancer which just have bags of character.

So, to the shows themselves. Dualia is a half an hour storm of sensuality. Choreographed by “two of Span’s hottest names”, Rojas and Rodriguez, this piece is intended to give Spanish dance an injection of “the youth and freshness of this generation”. It is a loosely narrative exploration of love, sexuality and relationships based around the traditional flamenco form of pair dancing but with lots of impressive company work too. Dualia is full of energy and cheekiness and it is very sexy. It seems to move at an unbelievable pace and is the perfect opening play from BNE, drawing the audience into their style and treating them to a great spectacle which is nevertheless clever and theatrical.

After the interval comes La Leyenda. This is Jose Antonio’s personal tribute to the legend of Spanish dancer Carmen Amaya, and it is clearly a labour of love. Achingly atmospheric and beautifully theatrical Antonio gives us a series of images based on the dancer’s life but also manages to conjure up an impression of the effect of watching her. To avoid mimicry, and perhaps because to an extent mimicry is simply impossible, Antonio has cast Carmen as an incredible double act splitting her down the middle and enabling the creation of a dialogue between her conflicting personality traits. Despite sounding a little risky and confusing - this works brilliantly. The two Carmens, danced by Cristina Gomez and Elena Algado, make a breathtaking centrepiece that is just great to watch whether they’re flouncing impossibly long trains on their dresses, sliding between cleverly framed rooms of light or dancing together in a cheeky version of traditional male-female pair dancing. They are strong, sensitive, self-aware and oozing character. All of this is interspersed with large group dances full of energy and visually stunning, which have the feel of Carmen’s roots in the Barcelona slums and give a real sense of time and place to the abstract portrayal of the artist. This is a very unique piece of work and confirms Jose Antonio as a true master of his craft with an imaginative and theatrical mind.

If you can see BNE while they are in the UK you really should try. True to the traditional image of Spanish temperament they are a little contradictory: so easy to watch, but also challenging and ambitious in concept, technically stunning but surprisingly human. This is definitely a unique combination of work and not like anything you are likely to see elsewhere.

 

London Coliseum

7.30pm (Matinee 1st May)

Tickets: £15 - £55

Box Office: 0871 911 0200

www.eno.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

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