National Dance Company of Spain


Two views

June 16, 2003 -- Sadler's Wells/ London

Emma Pegler:

If one is dedicated in one's opposition 'against' Spanish national dances, one will approach an evening such as "Fueneteveojuna" in the wrong frame of mind, as one of the London newspaper critics has done. If one has no opinion in particular, then in my view, one is bound to be 'bowled over' by such an evening. The fusion of well-selected, atmospheric music with passionate dance is all consuming. I have spent a great deal of time in Spain studying dance and I pride myself on knowing about the style. This is extremely good stuff. Gades captures the heart of Spain, the dance, human nature... I truly think that if Gades can't move you, then you can't be moved. Maybe you only think you can.

The sight of slim, slight, male dancers in high-waisted trousers expressing themselves through intricate and rhythmic lower leg and foot movements, with torso straight, erect and proud; sweat flicking off oiled curly hair; hands taut and proud...how can you fail to be moved?

Aside from the dances themselves - Spain has many national dances and Gades is 'second to none' in his harnessing of the essentially informal dances of Spain for the stage - the story telling through dance is worthy of Lope de Vega. When the young hero envelops himself and his betrothed in his cloak, we see, perhaps, his hiding himself and his young fiancée from the evil 'seigneur'. Or do we see their consummating their union before marriage?

The company of dancers moves as a slow, silent homogenous gathering of peasants as if in a silent film. Then you hear the heels go down and the group has bite, comes out of the screen and becomes three-dimensional and 'feisty.' The individuals emerge and, thankfully, the older, heavier (and probably most musical), members of the company, grab the attention more. It is always amazing that at an impromptu flamenco jamming session, the thin dramatic beauties enchant but the older, not-so-thin dramatic dancers literally bewitch. And Gades preserves that formula.

Catch it while you can.

Stuart Sweeney:

This is a fine production with as great a variety of Spanish dances as you are likely to see and Antonio Gades' choreography swirls and crystallises into clusters and geometric patterns throughout the 90 minutes of the work.

The quality of the ensemble dancing is high with perfect synchronisation. From time to time there is some solo dancing, leaving us begging for more, but in this work Gades wanted to explore the extended use of movement choirs. Flamenco provides the springboard for the most dramatic scenes.

The plot is very "white hats, black hats", reminiscent of Russian films like "Alexander Nevsky". The politics - peasants good, nobles bad - are unsurprising given Gades' exile in Cuba during the Franco era. Nevertheless the baddie Commander, played by Francisco Velasco on the opening night, gets good steps and tunes and is a long way ahead of most Tybalts I have seen. The lovers, Tamara Lopez and Christian Lozano, dance with tenderness, passion and power. As always, Gades is an equal opps choreographer and the older dancers including the fat and the bald all get a chance to show that dance is for everyone.

Gades uses the different dance styles to enhance the telling of this story of love, lust and revenge. One caveat is that the story telling does become rather rushed in the closing scenes. Nevertheless, "Fuenteovejuna" is well worth a visit if you are intrigued by Spanish dance or story-telling through dance.

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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