A load of old cape and bull

DANCE

After the first leg of Ballet Madrid's first season over here, one thing is clear. Someone at the Spanish Embassy must have tipped them the wink that the Brits are hot for flamenco. For I cannot believe that the local audience for a company calling itself the community (comunidad) ballet of Madrid really turns out regularly to see dances that mimic every last, burned-out, cliche of touristic Spanish dance: females in shawls who huff and flounce, men who strut and smirk and preen, couples whose idea of a tense, emotional encounter is to prowl round each other like cape and bull. This is a foreigner's Spain. But to judge by the excited response at the Peacock Theatre this week, Victor Ullate is more than just the company's director, choreographer-in-chief, and head of its training school. He is also a very shrewd businessman.

You might think ballet and flamenco a rum kind of marriage, and I'm not sure that Ullate proves otherwise, but there are many distin- guished precedents for ball- etic mergers with Iberia. Think of Petipa's Don Quix- ote, or the Spanish dances in Act III of Swan Lake. But in such cases there's never any doubt we're watching ballet. The first piece in Ballet Madrid's all-Ullate programme, Ven que te tiente (literally, "come, let me hold you") treads a watery middle-ground between the two dance forms.

Straight arms swing free of the rounded port de bras of classical dance; extended legs supply elevation, not rhythm. It's weird to be hearing the anguished growl of flam- enco singer Carmen Linares at the same time as seeing dancers soaring in airy arcs like thistledown. Earth and air don't mix.

The ballet opens on a chap in a smart 1920s jacket walking about reading a book. He, I guessed, was the poet Lorca, who in real life spent a lot of time hanging around village squares notating Spanish folk songs. It might have helped to have given us the texts to them. The Spanish folk duly come on like the gangs in West Side Story - a wave of young hoodlums in singlets and tight trousers, fists clenched, hips thrust out ready for a fight, followed by a wave of girls flaunting their charms in fringed low-cut dresses, to trigger the action and act out the songs. It's all very picturesque, danced around a barrage of suspended scenery: a stone cottage com-plete with shrine and obligatory bead curtain. Some of the dancing is stunning, but the work as a whole does not rise above choreographic tourism, reducing the rough and gutsy original to a glossy postcard.

The next piece seemed to promise a more serious approach to Flamenco. Tras el Espejo ("Through the Mirror") is intended as a homage to Spain's most popular dancer ever, Carmen Amaya. Ballet Madrid's Rut Mir certainly looks sensational as she enters with imperious slowness in a dress of stiff white satin, her wondrously arched back reflected in a large cheval mirror behind.

But our awe is short-lived. Trailing behind her is what looks like a splurge of Mr Whippy ice-cream, which turns out to be a ruffled dress train, 40 feet long. The audience giggles, and it's downhill from then on. Mir steps out of her satin casing to reveal a catwoman leotard, and launches into a complicated floor routine (partly on all fours) which, though impressive in its lithe control of limbs and pelvic tilts in curious positions, wouldn't look amiss in a peep show.

How all this connects with a dance star of the 1940s I will never know, since the printed programme devoted six pages to a history of Madrid but offered not a word about the pieces.

Hearteningly, the full 22-strong company returns for the final piece, Jaleos, a thing of pure technique - brittle and brilliant. To a ticking, electronic score that seems to be timing each dancer's work-out like a stopwatch, dancers show off their immaculate schooling in synchronised sequences of elevated split-jumps and high-speed pirouettes. Ullate has drilled this handsome company to the nth degree. Perhaps this week's programme - which includes the work of other choreographers - will give that technique a more interesting context.

Peacock Theatre, WC2 (0171 314 8800), Mon-Sat.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

    £12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders