Nuevo Ballet Español Baile de Máscaras Teatro Albeniz, Madrid, Spain November 19–30, 2008 Reviewed by
Justine Bayod Espoz
Photo by Álvaro Villarrubia,
Courtesy Nuevo Ballet Español.
Carlos Rodriguez as Francisco
Goya and Angel Rojas as King Ferdinand.
Every once in a while a dance performance so unique comes along that critics and audience members alike relinquish all peevish doubt and surrender to the work’s creative lure. The Nuevo Ballet Español’s most recent creation, Baile de Máscaras (Masked Ball), is just such a piece.
Creating a historical and narrative dance piece seems like a monumentally bad idea, as proven by the Spanish National Ballet’s 2008 flop The Green Stone Heart. Yet NBE’s founders/choreographers/artistic directors/principal dancers, Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez, made it a winning combination by weaving an intricate web of narration, music, classical dance and flamenco.
Baile de Máscaras was initially commissioned by the City of Mostoles, a commuter city on the outskirts of Madrid where NBE is based. It commemorates the 200th anniversary of May 2, 1808, when the people of Mostoles and Madrid staged an uprising against the French occupying troops, an act of rebellion that eventually led to the Spanish War of Independence.
The narrator, a present-day asylum patient, scribbles manically in a notebook as he enters room 1808 while describing scenes of war and terror and introducing the story’s principal players. Napoleon, danced by guest performers Daniel Doña and Rafael Rivero, is made a formal, commanding and foreign figure by dancing only classical ballet. Angel Rojas portrays King Ferdinand VII of Spain, dubbed the “traitor king” after the war for nullifying the first Spanish constitution (a result of Spain’s victory over France). A clownish character, he oscillates between classical dance and flamenco, as Napoleon shackles him and takes him to France, leaving the Spanish people to fend for themselves.
Carlos Rodriguez plays Francisco Goya, the painter famous for capturing the battles and public executions of the War of Independence on canvas. He is the modern world’s link to the true protagonists of both the dance and the history it represents––the Spanish people.
NBE’s dancers shine brighter in this piece than in any prior. Their dramatic skills are put to the test as they tackle a wide spectrum of emotions. Their vibrant flamenco choreographies powerfully remind viewers not only of the repression and loss suffered by the Spanish people during the Napoleonic invasion, but also of their bravery and determination.
Although Baile de Máscaras was made for Spanish audiences and has, until now, only been performed in Spain, it is clear, emotive, and engaging enough to appeal to audiences around the world. Here’s hoping NBE has the opportunity to prove this last statement true.
Mention "flamenco" to anyone in the Cuban dance scene, and they are likely to bring up Irene Rodríguez. Artistic director of Compañía Irene Rodríguez, Cuba's premiere flamenco company, Rodríguez has shared the stage with such renowned flamenco artists as Eva Yerbabuena, María Juncal and Antonio Gades. She is also a faculty member at Havana's Fernando Alonso National Ballet School, and has served as a choreography consultant at Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.
Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.