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Review 1, 4-23: Ole!
National Ballet of Spain is Back with Andres
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- At City Center on Saturday,
National Ballet of Spain proved that some governments can do things right when
it comes to culture. BNE (Ballet Nacional Espagna) presented a wide selection
of dances, including relatively new artistic director Elvira Andres's "Mujeres."
The company's foreseeable artistic future looks bright judging by Andres's blending
of respect for tradition and theatrical invention.
"Mujeres" (1993) is also the name
of the company led by Andres prior to her appointment to NBS. Each of the six
works on the program was strong in its own right, but this one -- featuring six
women -- was especially haunting. Whether the dancers strode across the stage,
which they did repeatedly, or performed arabesques or turns, their line was clean,
simple, and done with ardent purpose. They seemed to be searching for something
and yet at peace, solo -- or in a group, rushing across the stage with arched
backs and arms pulled back in curves to accentuate their posture. The costumes,
floor-length grise gowns, had contrasting piping sewn to wryly highlight the female
anatomy, front and back. "Mujeres" combined uniquely Spanish elements with broader
strains of contemporary dance.
By contrast, "Estampio," in a world
premiere choreographic interpretation by Andres, featured ten men in a striking
show of machismo. Primitivo Daza and Alberto Ferrero wore bright red jackets (the
others wore more muted tones) and stitched fancier patterns with their feet, tapping
the floor with their toe boxes and moving through passes. Two lines of men moved
forward and backward, holding their waistcoats with one hand while the other arm
circled frontward like the hands of a clock. They were accompanied by live musicians.
"Entreverao (Farruca)" also was performed to live music. Choreographed by Manuel
Santiago Maya "Manolete," this solo (performed on Saturday by Oscar Jimenez) showed
the combination of flamenco and classical Spanish dance for which Manolete is
recognized. Intricate footwork alternated with big, lunging, sideward chassees
with the arms in fourth position forming a halo about the torso. Arms were often
used to delineate a strong negative space to better frame the torso.
Mayte Bajo choreographed and performed
"De Azabache y Plata," a company premiere. Bajo's signature became her entrances,
in which her remarkably arched feet kicked out from under her gown. To taped music
with a jazzy flair, she showed impressive range with castanets, adding another
aural texture and to the nuanced mix. She repeated her arch-first gliding walk
to open the second movement of "Concierto de Aranjuez," an homage to musician
Joaquin Rodrigo, choreographed by Pilar Lopez in 1952. A social gathering set
in a garden, the piece was notable for the air of rigid formality throughout its
three sections. Court dances mixed with courtship dances, and the elaborate costumes
were festive, although their candy colors and reliance on satin and tulle recalled
the garb of a poorly conceived wedding party. In the third movement, all the dancers
wore white formal dress with gold accents. The setting shifted to an interior
ballroom, where the pinched movement exacerbated the claustrophobic, arid atmosphere.
It felt like the period piece it was.
One dancer lost her slippers after
a quick chassee combination crossing the stage twice, but had the presence of
mind not to miss a step. (Unfortunately, you would have thought she'd lost her
dress the way the audience carried on, even applauding as one errant shoe was
"Grito" (1997), which closed the
program, was choreographed by Antonio Canales and featured eight musicians seated
across the upstage wall, forming a backdrop. Soulful vocalise was woven throughout
the piece, combining with funky percussion, guitars and flute. "Grito" combined
an impressive variety of scenes, from large groups of women and men, to a trio
of men (Mariano Bernal, Jesus Cordoba, and Christian Lozano), and finally one
regal woman, Esther Jurado. Jurado walked leading with her hips, and her castanet-free
hands were especially delicate. The three men danced in boxes of light, the water
slicking their hair centrifugally spinning off their heads, mixing with sweat.
They embodied the controlled power of flamenco.
Since its founding in 1978, BNE's
directors have been appointed by what is most recently called "the Ministry of
Education, Culture and Sport, acting on the proposal of the National Institute
for the Performing Arts." Sounds like a potential bureacratic minefield, but the
result in this case is a success: the preservation of some traditional works and
an ongoing devotion to the pure vernacular dance heritage of Spain, a rich and
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