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Flash Review, 9-16: "Carmen"
Irresistible Dancers, Relentless Angst from Turano-Ford

By Angela Jones
Copyright 2000 Angela Jones

There is no doubt that dancing to Bizet's "Carmen" is a challenge. One has to admire the courage it takes to attempt to create movement that compliments the dramatic intensity of the music and story. Turano/Ford's "Carmen," which opened last night at the Dicapo Opera Theatre, goes for the drama wholeheartedly, but lacks context, structure and intention. Despite absolutely beautiful bodies (both technically and aesthetically), well-designed costumes, and dramatic lighting, the relentless angst and in-your-face sexuality make it difficult to stay involved in the drama.

In the first act, Carmen appears as three personae (choreographer Nancy Turano, Benedetta Capanna and I-Fang Huang) who are indistinguishable in character, energy, and choreography. When three people represent one character, the expectation is that the character will be explored as a prism, allowing the audience to see different facets simultaneously. All three Carmens uniformly alternate between shaking their heads and arms, writhing on the floor, turning in attitude, throwing their filmy skirts against their bodies and stopping to show us their incredible extensions. Each maintains a vague sense of insanity manifesting as fierce undirected aggression or sexual exhibitionism. They touch themselves, gesture madly, and glare angrily at an empty chair covered with red material and surrounded by fruit. When the second soloist bites off the head of a cigar, crumbles it in her hand, and begins to laugh maniacally, one only comes away with a sense of intense hatred of the other sex without reason. The only real aspect that this Carmen seems to have in common with the opera is the music.

Act II, "Carmen in the Underworld" purports to explore Carmen as she enters Dante's "Inferno." Without any specific references to or details from either "Carmen" or the "Inferno," it is difficult to see what was gained by juxtaposing the two. Bodies writhe on the floor in perfect unison and the three Carmens, whose red, black and mauve costumes are covered in gray toule and whose eyes are blackened, fling themselves among the lost souls in anguish. One of the Carmens then dances briefly with Don Jose and Escamillo, who were as indistinct as the Carmens, as a video of fire crackles on the back wall. Then male lost souls in tight little shorts and leather straps around their muscled torsos jump and kick as whipping sounds cut the air. They toss and lift a Carmen until she falls into a crumpled heap on the floor.

Then souls with masks on the backs of their heads create the illusion of a body that is not quite right as the second Carmen falls limply across them. Finally, the last Carmen tries to reach up as a swarm of bodies and hands pull at her and the lights fade, ending the piece with yet another prosaic dramatic image. Passion with a real sense of purpose is captivating. If Ms. Turano gave her dramatic energy a specificity and intention, her choreography could be as irresistible as her dancers.

Turano/Ford's "Carmen" closes tonight at the Dicapo Opera Theatre. For ticket reservations, please call 212-539-3822.

 

Angela Jones is a New York City-based dancer and choreographer.

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