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Production

Sabores

Company

Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

11/10/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Esplanade Theatre

Rating

***

A Traditional Taste

If you attended Sabores (Flavours) just to see Sara Baras, you would not have been disappointed. Lithe and long-limbed with expressive arms, she stamped and spun with a furious passion and precision, showing why she is considered among the best flamenco dancers in Spain. With her personal interpretation of traditional flamenco choreography and costuming, she and her company, Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras, teased the audience with the possibility of an exploration below the surface of the standard concert format. This was not to be, however.

The evening began with the dancers and musicians casually coming on stage, warming up and rehearsing small sections of the dances to an evocative Bolero, featuring violinist Pere Bardagi and vocalist Ángela Bautista. The first appearance of Baras drew ecstatic applause. Known for developing a costume without the trademark polka dots and tiers of frills, she wore a tie-dyed floor-length dress that miraculously unwound into an enormous circle as she danced.

As she spun, her skirt spiralled around her and caught the light, similar to how the 19th-century dancer Loie Fuller used her voluminous costumes. It was breathtaking and beautiful. The performance progressed mainly through a series of solos by Baras and her guests José Serrano and Luis Ortega. The musical palos (styles to express various emotions) were shown through the complex rhythms of the feet, the dancers’ multiple turns and expressive gestures, embodying the essence of flamenco.

Although there was no doubt about the technical mastery and charisma of these performers, the strict adherence to a traditional format became repetitive and predictable. In typical style, the excellent musicians were placed behind the performers on two small platforms while the dancers worked in front of them. According to the programme, this approach was intentional in order to allow the "the colours (of the dance) to take the limelight".

While there was some interplay between the dancers and the musicians, this could have been extended much further to bring everyone into the show. The company performed intermittently and created some much-needed interest and diversity between the solos through choreography that included interaction between the sexes and some inventive moves such as overhead lifts.

Overall I found the format of this performance somewhat passé. Despite the virtuosic performances, the absence of any sets, narratives, transitions or evolving dynamics left us with a series of disjointed items. Die-hard flamenco fans may have been excited to see another set of complex footwork and another encore, but at many points, I became disengaged. I was looking for an uplifting, theatrical experience and this aspect of the performance eluded me.

First Impression

If you went to see Sara Baras, the diva and brilliant exponent of classic flamenco, you would not have been disappointed by Sabores. She stamped and spun with a furious passion and precision showing why she is considered amongst the best practitioners of this art. Her lithe, long-limbed form is unusual for a flamenco dancer and this enabled her to extend her arms expressively as she danced the intricate steps of the tango, taranto and martinette. By presenting a personal interpretation of traditional flamenco choreography and costuming, she teased the audience with the possibility of an exploration below the surface of the standard flamenco concert format. This was not to be, however. With no sets, narratives, transitions or evolving dynamic, I found the series of items disjointed. Die-hard flamenco fans may have been in raptures after seeing another set of complex footwork and another encore, but at many points, I became disengaged. I was looking for an uplifting, theatrical experience from the evening of dance, but it eluded me.


"Although there was no doubt about the technical mastery and charisma of these performers, the strict adherence to a traditional format became repetitive and predictable"

Credits

Choreography and Direction: Sara Baras in collaboration with guest artists José Serrano and Luis Ortega

Dancers: Sara Baras, Alicia Fernández, Cecilia Gómez, Ana González, Charo Pedraja, María Vega, Raúl Fernandez, José Galán, David Martin, Daniel Saltares and David Nieto

Music: José Marla Bandera, José Carlos Gómez, Mario Montoya, Miguel de la Tolea and Saúl Quirós

Lighting and Scenography: Fernando Martin and Sara Baras

Costume Design: Sara Baras

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.