“Ole!” During the 90-minute show, this and many other terms of encouragement or jaleos were called out at the Hong Kong Youth Square Y Theatre on 14 May 2016.
La Partida, directed and choreographed by Adrian Santana, is a new creation launched in both Japan and Hong Kong in May 2016. Santana, a Spanish flamenco dancer, formed a trio with Chloe Cheung and Mariko Drayton, two Asian flamenco dancers, who use the acronym MAC for their group - using the first letter of each of their given names - Mariko, Adrian, and Chloe. Santana’s work is an expression of his personal life experiences through the language of flamenco, a language that expresses passion, joy, sensation, and sorrow. Other performers include the singers Eva ‘La Lebri’ and Trini De La Isla, guitarist Yeray Cortes, and the palmera (hand-clapper) Ana Romero.
Santana first gained widespread recognition in Hong Kong’s Flamenco community when he performed Spanish dance in the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong’s Flamenco Classico in February 2013. He played the role of Don José in Carmen Suite and his emotion-charged acting was well received by audiences.
1. La Partida, Dancers: (Left to right) Mariko Drayton and Chloe Cheung Photo Credit: Ali Ghorbani
There are seven scenes with different varieties of Flamenco or palos in La Partida. The first and the last palos are the same: “Seguidilla” in which Santana dances solo with castanets surrounded by the guitarist, singers, and the palmera. The dance lasts about two minutes and serves as an introduction. After the lights fade to black, a woman’s voice announces in English: “Everything happens for a reason . . . Let the game begin!” It is an apt opening for the evening – which is not only a show, but a game that is intended for everyone to enjoy - performers and audience.
The second palo is “Cana y Polo”, with the sequence re-arranged, with Cheung and Drayton dancing the Polo to recorded music and castanets. This is a contemporary piece, with the dancers dressed in grey and their movement and that of their big skirts casting large shadows on the cyclorama.
Then comes “Caña”, a serious and demanding solo performed by Santana. In it, the dancer is dressed like a bullfighter with a black Spanish mantón, woven with long golden fringe, covering his left shoulder. Santana’s masculine dancing, especially waving the mantón while turning, heats up the atmosphere in the house. With dim yellow lighting coming from the behind, Santana is like a steed with flying wings on fire in the sunset.
The third item is a duet, “Bambera”, performed by Cheung and Drayton. The dance is heavy and slow in the first half but the tone becomes delightful and fast in the second. Both dancers are dressed in black and have wrapped themselves in the same style of Spanish mantón that Santana used in the previous piece. They unfurl the heavy mantóns and use them while dancing in the second half, controlling them well at a good pace. However, the lighting for this whole piece is very dark. It diminishes the contrast shown in the movement and the emotional change: breaking from the darkness to the brightness.
The fourth palo is “Alegrias”. Cheung and Drayton, dressed in red and white batas de cola (dresses with trains) and holding abanicos (hand fans) deliver the dance’s joyful feeling. Normally, “Alegrias” are highlighted with escobillas, opportunities for dancers to show off their variations and speed in doing footwork while dancing. Nevertheless, Santana combines falseta, which are solo passages on the guitar, and escobillas into one. Cheung and Drayton move slowly and do simple footwork only. It is a wise arrangement because in dancing escobillas there needs to be a high degree of concentration and rapport between dancers and guitarists. Santana successfully transformed the challenge into a dance of feminine beauty.
The fifth and sixth scenes are “Malagueñas” and “Rondeña”. The former is all singing and the latter is a dance performed by all three dancers. During La Lebri’s performance of “Malagueñas”, the theatre amplifier emitted hissing noises whenever she raised her voice to forte. These technical flaws in the theatre’s sound equipment need to be investigated and corrected.
The last dance is the “Seguidilla” with castanets again but in a complete version performed by Santana. It is a passionate palo characterized by long and complicated footwork to express sorrow and deep solitude. In this performance, one senses Santana’s conquest of the audience through his proficiency, accuracy, and confidence.
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Angela Lee Is currently studying for a Doctor of Applied Language Sciences degree at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She began learning flamenco in Hong Kong in 2009 and was also a participant of the Hong Kong Dance Alliance Dance Enhance: Dance Appreciation & Criticism Writing Project 2015.
Date: 14 May 2016
Time: 8pm Venue: Y Theatre, Youth Square