Compañia Nacional de Danza

July 9, 2009

Compañia Nacional de Danza
Matadero Madrid

Madrid, Spain

July 9–19, 2009

Reviewed by Valerie Gladstone

Nacho Duato’s
Herrumbre, with Tamako Akiyama, Gentian Doda, Isaac Montllor. Photo by Fernnado Marcos, Courtesy CND.


In his first work for CND, choreographer Gustavo Ramírez, artistic director of the Valencia-based company Proyecto Titoyaya, showed an affinity for large, spacious movement, in a piece filled with rapid, twisting turns and low leaps. But from the opening image of Chapter 10—two men in a circle of light, framed by moveable poles—he failed to create a solid structure for the dance, which seemed to have no direction. It gained little momentum, largely staying on the same emotional and physical plane throughout.  Not without its visual pleasures—the space set off by the poles contracts and expands in relation to the interaction of the dancers—it would have been far better if it had had some kind of arc, marking the stages through which the dancers passed. When the light dimmed at the end of the piece, the conclusion felt arbitrary rather than earned.

Nacho Duato’s devastating Herrumbre (Rust), while also too long, is a brilliant work with all the characteristics of his vigorous and provocative storytelling. Never one to shy away from disturbing subjects, whether it be drug abuse in White Darkness or castration in Castrati, he here takes on the prevalence of torture, turning impossibly horrifying acts into dramatically resonant images.

Inspired by a photograph of the base at Guantanamo showing prisoners thrown on the ground like animals, Duato succeeds in his goal of revealing the true horror of torture. He conveys the victim/tyrant relationship through painful scenes where dancers take on either sadistically bullying roles as prison guards or sadly desperate ones as tortured prisoners. Working with his longtime music and set collaborators, Alcalde, Caballero, and Chalabi, he fully realizes a world in which shots ring out, wires screech, and floodlights startle. The effective set resembles a monstrous steel and wire prison, possible to climb through but never to escape.


Even more athletic than most of his works, Herrumbre gives Duato’s superb dancers freedom to act as well as to dance. They rise to the occasion beautifully, never lapsing into melodrama. In the end, after an hour of excruciating scenes of rape and humiliation, they come onstage in a continual stream, carrying hundreds of shimmering red lights as if in a cathedral, an eloquent tribute to those who have died by torture. For all its violence, the work is a plea for peace.