Flamenco Festival London: Ballet Nacional de España – Grito and Suite Sevilla
Director Antonio Najarro is an accomplished dancer, whose professional career began at the age of 15. He has always displayed exceptional creativity and was drawn to choreography, winning the Choreographic Contest of Spanish Dance and Flamenco. His talent did not go unnoticed outside of Spain: Najarro was invited to choreograph a programme for the French Olympic figure skating pair, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, who won Olympic gold with his programme, Flamenco, in 2002. Najarro has been director of the Ballet Nacional de España since 2011.
Najarro opens with all male dancers. Their impressive form is undiluted by the usual distraction of attention-seeking flamenco dresses. When the women finally do take the stage, their grand shadows are cast against the background. This is a useful function, counteracting the pale colouring of their gowns that looks washed out against the black background. The set is fully lit throughout, even while there are only two dancers, giving the appearance that the stage is too large for them.
The first and second parts of the performance could have been directed by two different people. Use of space, lighting, costumes and choreography are all far superior in the second half, and although the dance skill level remains high throughout, the first half lacks imagination. The second component of the show is certainly more aesthetically pleasing than the first. After the interval, the curtain only rises a foot into the air, revealing the dancers on their knees, tapping their castanets against the floor of stage. The rich gold of their costumes underneath the black of the curtain teases the audience with the spectacle to come. Once the curtain is raised, the performers sink and rise flawlessly into their places with the precision of those rehearsed to perfection.
The audience is mesmerised when a single female dancer performs a flamenco-inspired ballet. Her dress is reminiscent of that of an Irish dancer, in teal and embroidered gold. This is a delicate and captivating interlude amongst the bigger, bolder numbers.
A bright white moon is cast upon the back of the stage. Unexpectedly, a shadow of the crucified Christ appears in the moon. This is by far the most imaginative of the dances, and the theme is completely unanticipated. The female dancers run in one direction, consistently being lifted and pushed back in another by their male counterparts. While the resulting movement is fluid and beautiful, it suggests frustration and futility.
Red, blue and yellow layered dresses complement the movement of the female dancers, as they weave their way through the sumptuous, red velvet suits that dress the men. The audience’s reaction is very positive, and the finale is met with passionate applause and the stamping of feet.
Ballet Nacional de España: Grito and Suite Sevilla is at Sadler’s Wells until 28th February 2015. The Flamenco Festival London is on at Sadler’s Wells until 1st March 2015, for further information or to book visit here.