Performing Arts: Dance
March 7, 2018
After twenty years of absence, Ballet Nacional de España (BNE) returned to New York City Center filling the Neo-Moorish Mecca Temple celebrating its 40th anniversary with splendor. Antonio Najarro had initially choreographed this program for his own company a few months before accepting the directorship of the BNE in 2011. With the mission to place the company as an avant-garde icon, Najarro, incorporated haute couture, leading technology, and a diverse dance vocabulary into the Spanish repertoire's artistic signature. The eclectic program intermixed flamenco, Danza Estilizada, Escuela Bolera and Spanish Folklore with contemporary dance, impeccable ballet technique, and a plethora of castanet virtuosity, imprinted by Antonio’s extraordinary mastery of this concert element.

In Suite Sevilla, the audience promenaded through the picturesque neighborhood of Triana, ebullient Seville’s April fair. Sunny Guadalquivir port, morphed into an Easter procession into alleys obscured with incense and witnessed the Fiesta Brava confrontations at the Maestranza. Under the musical direction of Omar Acosta, audiences were raptured by flamenco guitarist Rafael Riqueni, enjoined by the ontributions of Enrique Bermúdez, Jesús Torres, and Paco de Lucía.

The evening’s soothing orchestrated preamble was abruptly interrupted as the curtain was raised a few inches to reveal a marching line of sharp castanet percussion. The partially veiled company alternated playing the palillos through conventional hand technique or striking the floor as taconeo, breaking rounded Spanish classical lines by angular far-reaching striking posticeos, exciting the audience’s applause as both company and curtain rose.

Like a cardistry magician, Antonio displayed swirling and shuffling formations of dancers adorned in albero golden fitting ruffle flamenco dresses and Trajes de Corto suits while intermixing stylized Sevillanas with abstract themes alluding to Joaquín Turina. In Calle del Infierno, the amusement park of the April fair, soloist Débora Martínez celebrated the Escuela Bolera legacy of the Pericet family, abundant in entrechats embroidered in 17th-century motifs. La Alfalfa followed easter’s penitent somber mourning processions. Within a prayer of contemporary broken abstract lines and hunching deep contractions accented by rhythmic lace fan gestures. A compact group of dragging Nazarenos were joined by lamenting majas adorned with mantillas. With relieving freshness, principal dancer, Inmaculada Salomón, displayed her classical lines as she was carried in a seamless sequence of portées attired in an immaculate pearl dress representing Esperanza.

El Encierro, choreographed by Manuel Liñán, broke the mystical ambiance with a duet of Andalusian cattle ranchers in Traje Campero. Eduardo Martínez and José Manuel Benítez augmented Paco de Lucía’s Zapateado with panache, incorporating the use of the jacket, Coredobés hat, wooden cane, and an array of nine pastel wooden chairs into the dance vocabulary. Within chiaroscuro dialogues, Saray Muñóz and Gabriel de la Tomasa tenderly chanted La Pesca del Atún, followed by the majestic Soleá del Mantón, where Esther Jurado paid tribute to the legacy of Blanca del Rey’s signature revering the Manila shawl as a protagonist.

Antonio’s sensual pas de deux transposed contemporary portés into the bata de cola territory in Paseo de Ensueño, where the bailaor would interplay with both, his partner and her train dress in a romantic storyline. However, the audience’s favorite was Maestranza, an impossible love narrative between a bullfighter and the dual figure of woman and bull.

Empowered by consummate artists, Sergio Bernal and Aloña Alonso, Najarro displayed brilliant bullfighting capote figures, dancer’s plasticity, and dramatic complexity amalgamating tradition and vanguard. Puerta de Triana enraptured patrons as six sensuous bailaoras dressed in ivory bata de colas and pericón fans casting the shadows of their elongated figures against the circular cyclorama that decorated the evening with digital projections.

Another crowd-pleasing number was Bailaor where the male cast clothed in traditional emerald green traje corto and calañés hats showed off brilliant percussive footwork and classical technique within an abundant array of pirouettes and tours en l’air sequences in perfect synchronicity.

Congruent with its name, Júbilo closed the evening with a joyous amalgam of the Spanish dance umbrella references, where glimpses of the company’s ample repertoire reflected the multifaceted four-decade trajectory of Ballet Nacional de España’s heritage and artistry.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

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