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Review 2, 8-10: Flamenco Inauthentico
Ballet Teatro and Barely 'Flamenco'
By Chloe Smethurst
Copyright 2004 Chloe Smethurst
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MELBOURNE -- "Bolero
Flamenco," touring Australia and New Zealand this season, has been
widely advertised as an "international flamenco sensation," performed
by "thirty-five of Spain's most accomplished dancers and musicians."
While based in a flamenco style, the majority of the dances performed
by the Ballet Teatro Espanol de Rafael Aguilar at the Victorian
Arts Centre on Tuesday, August 3 lack the integrity and heartfelt
passion to be classed as true flamenco.
The title work, "Bolero,"
was first performed in 1987 and doesn't appear to have been revised
since, retaining a distinctly 'disco' feel through anomalous pelvic
thrusts, ridiculously exaggerated erotic gesturing and a severely
out-dated lighting design. With both choreography and design by
the now deceased Aguilar, the piece attempts to combine modern styling
with traditional techniques. The result is a mish-mash of cringe-worthy
moments, with the main offender being the shirtless soloist Fernando
Solano, who works himself into a masturbatory frenzy under a large
spotlight, watched by the troupe of seated women who perform a repetitive
and unimaginative sequence slapping their fans while opening and
closing their legs. Ravel's score of the same name seems as though
it would never end as the tacky scenes just keep coming, making
it very difficult to take anything about this work seriously.
Slightly better, at
least in terms of credibility, was the opening piece, "Aires de
Ida y Vuelta." Unfortunately, what little it brought to the program
in integrity was forfeited by the utter lack of creativity in the
way the piece was presented. Supposedly dealing with the origins
of Ibero-American folklore, according to the program notes, the
choreography does little more than mix a few movements from a tango
repertoire with a watered-down flamenco attitude in horribly clashing
costumes. A sequence of synchronized beats performed in silence
threatens to build the momentum, but without any exacting clarity
or particularly exciting rhythms the work doesn't reach its climactic
The last work in the
program, "Suite Flamenca," finally introduced live music to the
performance, delivered by two singers, guitars, flute and percussion.
Live music is an integral part of the flamenco tradition and it
was another lamentable aspect that a program claiming the word 'flamenco'
could have gone this long without it. Lead by excellent soloists
Rosa Jimenez, Lydia Cabello and Francisco Guerrero, a former star
with the National Ballet of Spain, the ensemble moves through some
more difficult beating sequences and keeps time with the music from
the sidelines. While remaining committed to modernizing the form
-- Guerrero even wears a sports jacket and carries a walking cane
-- Aguilar's choreography at last here reveals some of the true
skills of his artists. The suite is arranged as a string of solos,
the most arresting of which is danced by Guerrero, although both
Jimenez and Cabello perform strongly in their alegrias.
The most powerful performances
of the night were given by the two singers, Maria del Mar and Emilio
Florido. Gut-wrenching sounds and haunting melodies emanated from
them for the duration of their time onstage, at times completely
upstaging the rest of the ensemble. Even their spontaneous dance
solos at the end of the night were so passionate and heartfelt that
they made the earlier 'creative' dance pieces look flimsy and superficial.
Perhaps Bolero Flamenco
should be renamed Barely Flamenco, a name which would be much closer
to the heart of this production.
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