Thursday, 6 June 2013

This ain't no Nutcracker, Carmen is a ball-breaker

Last night I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of David Bombana's Carmen.  With not one frilly tutu or tiara in sight this is not the ballet you're used to.  It's raw, passionate and dark.  


I'll give you a quick synopsis of the story so you can have a little context:  Don Jose and Michaela are a couple, but he's gotten kind of bored with her.  Enter the super sultry and dangerous gypsy, Carmen. Carmen has her own man, Garcia, leader of the bandits.  She and Don Jose have an affair, but she returns to Garcia.  Don Jose is overcome with jealousy and murders Garcia.  But Carmen is not interested in being Don Jose's "beloved" and continues to flirt and tease the other men.  He can't handle the jealousy and kills her, or does she kill herself?  I''ll let you ponder this very oversimplified account, because it wouldn't be right to give it all away. 

Telling a story this entangled with jealousy, betrayal and lust wouldn't be right told wearing white tights and a pink bedazzled costume.  It  would lack a certain je ne sais quoi.  So,for this show the use of black fabric, leather, bondage and bare skin was far more appropriate.  The attire helped to create a sense of the rauchy underworld Carmen was dragging Don Jose into. The stage was also very simple consisting of metallic panels, lights,chairs and a table.  That was it.  There were no ornately painted moving set pieces, and I didn't miss them at all.  Often in the background they used video to add to the feeling of the scene.  The videos were just of shadows moving fluidly and hauntingly. 

Minimalist costumes and a bare set were the perfect scene to focus on the dancers.  And what a treat to be watching this modern take on ballet.  Traditional movements were deconstructed to create sharp and violent lines.  The choreography communicated a sense of despair, frustration and anger.  The more the dancers rolled, thrashed or slashed, the more we were drawn into their story.  I noticed the people sitting next to me slowly leaning forward in their chairs, being totally enveloped by what they were watching on stage.  They weren't just sitting back and watching things unfold, they were in it. 

For me, the music also played a very big part in the production.  There was no Tchaikovsky to be heard here.  There were sounds of the bull fights in Spain, juxtaposed my modern electronic music and then contrasted with music comprised solely of what sounded like whispers or breathing ( I have come to learn that these were actually comprised of Inuit throat singing and Russian prayers).  It was spectacular, with each scene our senses were taken into a new atmosphere, never allowing us to get too comfortable with what we were now part of.  The smoldering, dangerous world of Carmen.

Carmen is playing in Toronto at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts through June 16 2013. 
get your tickets here: http://national.ballet.ca/#