Arts: Dance: The lionisation, the hitch and the wardrobe
SARA BARAS SADLER'S WELLS LONDON
Wednesday 15 September 1999
First, though, I must mention that it is decidedly a hi-tech show, too. Are the microphones and loudspeakers intended to make clubbers feel at home, or is this some kind of artistic decision? If so, then I'm not too impressed by flamenco singers who need amplification, nor too happy about the general level of noise. And what are a violin and a flute doing in a flamenco ensemble? Sounds weird.
Anyway, what about our heroine? She has one big problem: all her numbers tend to look much alike. A lot of stamping, some discrete pauses, big out-thrust arm movements. Still, you can tell one from another by the changes of clothes and expression. For her first number, Martinete, which comes 20 minutes into the production, Baras wears a red dress and a scowl. She has a somewhat heavy face, powerful biceps, and great self-confidence. Her foot-work produces sharp, clear rhythms, aided by more microphones on stage.
For her second solo, La Farruca, she changes into black trousers and a frown. This one isn't quite a solo - a couple of anonymous handmaidens are allowed meekly to accompany her for the beginning, but they are soon dismissed before the boss reaches her fastest passages of stamping.
In the second half of the programme, Baras puts on a white frock, and her face varies between an occasional near-smile and an open mouth that might be intended to show passion. She also tends to spread both arms out, and sometimes even slips in a little turn.
From someone hyped as flamenco's great new talent, this is frankly disappointing. You don't need a memory stretching back to the post-war greats among Spanish women dancers, Pilar Lopez or Carmen Amaya, to realise this. Even in more recent, more modest companies we have seen bigger personalities, brighter technique, more fire.
It would matter less if there were more variety in the choreography, or if the musical interludes and accompaniments had more interest. The two guitarists are not bad (one of them, Jesus Del Rosario, is the music director and composer), but the rest sound muddy. The would-be clever lighting, much reliant on single spotlights from above on a dim stage, adds to the sense of drabness. Pity about that.
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