Friday, January 8

Considering "Blood Wedding" and "Suite Flamenca"

Call it a concentrated effort to escape the provincial life, but there is more than a whiff of pretension about me with regard to the classic high arts. I may slum it by buying only rush tickets and wearing jeans with a collared shirt, but I still attend the opera. I pay attention when a ballet is advertised. When I hear about upcoming orchestral performances I check to see if I can make it. And then if I can afford it.

These inclinations could potentially have made the past six months in Nakuru quite painful for me. As much as I dump on Baudette, it at least has a movie theater that shows movies a week or two after their release. The theaters in Nairobi, the closest, are fortunate to get any blockbuster a week or two before it's official DVD release. I may as well pick up the bootlegs on the streets by then. But I made it to the Cairo Opera yesterday. Watched the Antonio Gades Company's productions of Blood Wedding and Suite Flamenca. Think that'll hold me over for the next few months.

Somehow, Blood Wedding was the less interesting. That surprises me. It's called freaking Blood Wedding. Violence and love are explicitly promised in the very title. There should have been bodies a-flying and passion arousing, knives a-swinging and close embraces. Instead, it was a remarkably restrained vignette. Forbidden love is captured in a measured, precise paso doble that crosses the stage but once. The final fight between the new husband and the bride's true love takes place in slow motion. Honestly, more time was spent holding poses of indifference and suffering than in actual dancing. Which is what I was there for. It was advertised as a ballet, after all. I can respect the male leads for their physicality and control in maintaining their fight of four strikes over five minutes, but it was not what I was expecting.

The fundamental problem, I think, was that dance was simply the wrong medium for this. In preparing this post, I read that Blood Wedding began as a poem. A literary origin makes sense. Blood Wedding needs strong characters, there need to be reasons for the woman to marry the one and still love the other. There needs to be motivation for the men's confrontation to turn violent. In a dance, though, where members of the audience may very well be sitting over twenty meters from the action, all of this is necessarily reduced to and portrayed by a few sweeping gestures and poses. They are less characters and more types or caricatures. Blood Wedding needs subtlety. That is not dance's strong suit.

Fortunately, frantic rhythms, wild steps and just a general sense of overwhelming vitality are, and that is what followed in abundance after the intermission with Suite Flamenca. Flamenco lacks the delicacy and grace of ballet but the energy is something else entirely. The singers' warbling cries, the building strumming on the guitars, the slow steps of the dancers explode without notice into a frenzy but are brought to heel in an instant. Wow. Now I want to go to Spain.

If you are interested in reading a fairly complete description of the performance, check this article in The Daily News Egypt. Or, if you prefer, you can just watch the theatrical versions here and here.

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