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Review 2, 2-8: The Mistress of Every Muscle
Becoming Whole with Eva Yerbabuena
Copyright 2005 Anna Arias Rubio
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NEW YORK -- Ballet Flamenco
Eva Yerbabuena's "5Mujeres5," seen January 30 at City Center, describes
the emotional states of a woman passing from loveless solitude through
love, ambition and madness, before arriving at a cathartic, transcendent,
final solitude. Her mental states and emotions are like those that
a flamenco dancer passes through in the performance of a cante grande
palo such as solea or seguiriyas. The four women and four men of
the cuerpo de baile act as the Greek chorus, sometimes echoing Yerbabuena
and sometimes tormenting her. The choreography, by Yerbabuena and
Javier LaTorre, proves that in the right hands (and feet) flamenco
is a rich enough idiom to tell a complete story.
With the house lights
on and the audience still settling into their seats, Yerbabuena
enters the stage and sits in a white-draped armchair. She folds
her hands in her lap and stares out into the audience, her gaze
nonetheless far off, for about five minutes until the spectators
quiet down and the stage darkens. Lights flash on, then back off,
and from the void we hear footwork like the crescendo of an approaching
train. Five women in simple white dresses enter as soprano Marta
de Castro sings to the soft guitar of Paco Jarana. The dancers'
arms seem to be reaching out for something. Yerbabuena separates
herself from the group and acknowledges each woman. To the jazzy
flute of Ignacio Vidaechea, four men enter in white suits.
Pepe de Pura, Enrique
Soto and Rafael de Utrera sing a forlorn letra that sounds like
longing. The cuerpo de baile forms a circle center stage, leaning
back, each with one leg extended; their arms and outstretched legs
remind me of the hands of a clock. We see time ticking away and
feel the agony of waiting. The women leave Yerbabuena with the men.
She is surrounded by others yet she is alone. She ends up on the
Yerbabuena dons a white
jacket for the "Ambition" passage, striking matador poses. The men,
who earlier left the stage, return and dance to her whim. She snaps
her fingers and they freeze. She speaks to them with her feet, which
sound like fingers tapping the floor. She dances them off the stage.
"Soledad Parelelo" begins
with the sound of a baby cooing and gurgling. Yerbabuena dances
grief around and on the armchair, clutching the removed white jacket
like the blanket of a child she has lost. She never resorts to melodrama.
The soprano sings as she falls limp into the chair.
the section choreographed by LaTorre, begins with recorded poetry
that addresses the dark corners of memory. LaTorre (with whom I
spent an intense and tortuous, but inspiring time studying last
summer in Spain) is my personal choreographic idol. He has been
the mentor of many of the great flamenco dancers working today,
such as Maria Pages and Angel Munoz, and I wonder why the World
Music Institute and Miguel Marin have never included his company
in their programation of the Flamenco Festival. The cuerpo de baile
enters with metallic aprons or jackets added to their white costumes.
To the rhythm of tangos flamencos, they pace the stage and encircle
Yerbabuena. She pounds her feet to try to drive them away but she
can't avoid them. I am reminded of Marge Piercy's poem "For Strong
Women," in which the author evokes "the memories that get up in
the night and pace in boots to and fro." She begins to laugh desperately.
They grab at her and torment her until she screams "Nooo!" and they
begin to slowly back away.
The soprano sings again
and we see Yerbabuena behind a black scrim, changing into a traditional
black dress with a gold-flecked jacket to dance her seguiriyas.
In this solo we see her come to terms with every emotion already
described in the piece.
Eva Yerbabuena is not
just an impressive flamenco dancer, she is an impressive dancer,
period. She is very short and curvaceous, but the mistress of every
tiny muscle. All her movement radiates from the center; her feet
only have to reach down to the floor for her footwork. The music
enters her body and is displayed in her arms and hands. She has
the ability to reach and maintain an intense level of energy that
would kill a normal person.
The cuerpo de baile
enters, and the armchair beckons. The soprano pushes her towards
the chair with her voice and the maestra collapses in the chair,
spent, but whole.
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