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Flash Review 1, 1-22: Happy Together
Duato & Co. Throw Bach a Birthday Party

By Tim Heathcote
Copyright 2001 Tim Heathcote

SYDNEY -- Saturday night as part of the 25th Sydney Festival, the Capitol Theatre hosted the opening performance of "Multiplicity: Forms of Silence and Emptiness" by the Compania Nacional de Danza of Spain. This evening-length work by Nacho Duato, the company's artistic director and chief choreographer, was created to mark the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach's birth.

Duato's work was divided into two sections. Part 1: MULTIPLICITY, was a celebration of the talented composer. 13 short pieces, full of color, vigor and many costume changes matched Bach's diversity of score. This half was energetic, and sometimes humorous. I found Bach's tempo to be at times too fast to move to, but Duato dealt with this by occasionally slowing his rhythm down in opposition and this suited me better than his trying to keep up.

Bach experienced death many times in his life. This is said to have had a large influence on many of his works. This set the tone for Part 2 of the Duato work, FORMS OF SILENCE AND EMPTYNESS. This half was much darker and more meditative, and mined the depth of Duato's genius. Here the movement was fluid and generous, and showcased his choreographic talents in partnering.

This work was not about story-telling, but about movement. The "Bach theme'" was just that, a theme, and besides the use of his music, was mainly utilized to inspire design concepts. The period costumes (by Cornejo) were stunning, but these were rare, as the performers were mostly dressed in black unitards. The set concept "envisioned the themes of the Baroque music of J.S. Bach through the process of folding," according to the program notes. The resulting huge scaffold structure was fabulous and when combined with the dramatic lighting of Brad Fields, was visually stimulating.

The performance highlights were the two short solos performed by Duato himself that started and finished the work. Here we got to see where the movement was born and it was easy to see, by the way he moved, where the dancers in his company learned their skills.

So how did I feel? I felt inspired. You know you're in for a good performance when you go and see a happy company. A happy company requires a happy and confident leader. Someone the dancers respect. This leader has to give them the confidence in their own abilities and when he creates he has to give them the choreography that makes them feel good, and subsequently look good. I believe this to be true of Nacho Duato's company.

Saturday night I saw more than 20 dancers perform. Each and every one of them "had it." Each and every one of them understood the movement and executed it to perfection. Each movement was born from the previous. Every thing had a meaning. An arm movement wasn't just placed, it was instigated from the back. A leg wasn't moved without first being motioned from the hip. Every dancer understood each other's bodies as well as his or her own.

Keeping in mind that there is no formal training for a style like Duato's, my question is, how can every dancer in the company be so skilled in his style? There were no signs, that I could see, of any new dancer fresh out of the classical academy struggling with a foreign way of moving. And yet each dancer, if needed, could be totally classical. I have heard this company has a low turnover rate, a good answer to my question, and also proof of a happy company.

As a dancer I enjoyed every single moment of this performance. It was jammed full of juicy movement and not a lot of fluff, but I wondered how someone who couldn't feel the movement in his or her body as they watched, could sit through so much of it.... Hopefully with no problems at all.

The wonderful dancers of Compania Nacional de Danza: Mar Baudesson, Emmanuelle Broncin, Catherine Habasque, Ruth Maroto, Lesley Telford, Karen Waldie, Thomas Klein, Patrick de Bana, Kim McCarthy, Demond Hart, Rafael Rivero, Africa Guzman, Luis Martin Oya, Tamako Akiyama, Iratxe Ansa, Luisa Maria Arias, Liu Balocchi, Cristina Hortiguela, Emilija Jovanovic, Miriam Kescherman, Ana Maria Lopez, Yolanda Martin, Olivier Foures, Pedro Goucha, Amaury Lebrun, Olivier Lucea, Nicolas Maire, Sebastian Mari, Ivano Rossetti, Joel Toledo, and Jacek Tyski.

Compania Nacional de Danza performs in Sydney through Saturday, also presenting a second program, which opens Thursday. The company brings "Multiplicity: Forms of Silence and Emptiness" and other works to Lincoln Center this summer. To see a video of Compania Nacional de Danza, please visit the company's page on the World Arts Inc. web site, and click on the download video option. The video will take several minutes to download.

 

Tim Heathcote trained at the Australian Ballet School, and danced with Sydney Dance Company from 1993 to 1998. He left SDC and is currently doing research and development in dance clothing and footwear.

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