New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click
here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance
at its best.
back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review 2, 9-7: Trance Dance
Blanca Li Meets Gnawa
By Bettina Preuschoff
Copyright 2001 Bettina Preuschoff
HAMBURG -- Blanca Li, Spanish-born,
American-trained, and resident French "enfant terrible" opened the International
Summerfestival Laokoon last week with "Nana & Lila," a melange of works drawing
on everything from the flamenco of Ms. Li's native country to Moroccan gnawa trance
music, as you'd expect from a crossover specialist like Ms. Li.
A member of the Spanish National
Gymnastic team before studying Graham technique in New York for five years, Ms.
Li returned to Spain to see her company selected to perform at the World Exposition
in Seville. She next opened what became the hippest bar in Madrid, where the basement
was turned over to flamenco and the regulars included enfant terrible film-maker
Pedro Almodovar, who would cast Ms. Li in his film "Kika."
Mini-careers modelling for Paco Rabanne
and singing with legendary producer Malcolm McLaren followed before she settled
down to choreographing for operas and video. Ms. Li's solo performance at The
Kitchen was a smash hit of the recent NYC France Moves festival, and later this
year she'll choreograph her own version of "Scheherazade" on the Paris Opera Ballet.
"Nana & Lila," created in 1993, led
to a European tour for Ms. Li, who has re-worked the piece in recent years into
a mosaic of five contemporary choreographies.
The first part of the evening contains
three pieces: "Romance," "Minera," and "Nana."
Four female dancers enter the stage
with linear force in "Romance," discovering the space to the lyrical and rhythmical
voice of Juana la deal Cepillo, giving the flamenco song, "Por los Campitos de
In front of a blue background the
linearity of this group choreography evolves into an exchange with a flamenco-based,
sentimental solo by another woman.
In "Minera," Ms. Li displays her
qualities as a soloist at their best, exploring the possibilities of flamenco
in her own way, enjoying herself in each moment. Moments of silence in which she
resembles a Greek statue alternate with powerful sequences in which she developes
the image of a strong contemporary woman.
In the third section, "Nana," the
whole company dances in front of a red background which gives a natural mood of
power (womenpower!) and joy.
It's wonderful to see this technically
developed company dancing together, with all the dancers reaching the high level
of the various techniques demanded by Ms. Li.
For "Lila," a collaboration with
Gwana Halway, a group of musicians play traditional Gnawa music live on stage.
Ms. Li developed this piece after observing the trances that envelope participants
during the Lilas(traditional ceremonies) in Morocco, where she lived for five
White-veiled dancers sit on the stage,
moving just their heads and upper bodies, as if falling into trance.
After a while, you feel that it's
not just *like* going into trance -- you see that each of the dancers is going
into a kind of trance, but without imitating a traditional ritual. That would
be ridiculous. Instead, you feel that each dancer has found a personal ritual
without forgetting her own personal, cultural background. It's a kind of individual
The tension builds, with the aspect
of each performer becoming more and more explosive and ecstatic -- their moods
fed by Halway's potent live score. They take up more and more space, each performer
exploring her individual movement capacity. Even sitting in the audience, I began
to move, finding it impossible to stay immobile.
The reaction of the rest of the audience
varied -- from enthusiasm to disapproval to just plain incomprehension!
One thing is for sure: This piece
does not display an experimental "new" way of contemporary dance. But I asked
myself leaving the theatre: Is this always necessary? Because the fact is, I enjoyed
myself seeing this solid and, in a way, "classic" work.
And there's sure to be more to come
from Ms. Lee: Next season, she becomes the new chief choreographer of Komische
Oper Berlin. I for one am waiting impatiently for her next works, being conscious
of her various capacities, of which last week's program projected just a few facets.
For more information about the festival,
please click here. For more
on Blanca Li, click
back to Flash Reviews