A gorgeous and dazzling premiere of Zaguán & Alento presented by the Ballet Nacional de España (Spanish National Ballet, hereafter as BNE) after a five-year hiatus won thunder-like applause and great ovation from a full house at Shatin Town Hall Auditorium.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, BNE launched its Asian tour to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo this autumn, led by Antonio Najarro, Artistic Director and one of the choreographers, with a big crew of nearly 30 dancers and other support staff. Since Hong Kong Arts Festival 2005, this has been the third time that BNE bought their virtuoso and stunning dance performances to Spanish dance lovers in Hong Kong.
With a plain and precise backdrop and only a few hanging windows as décor, Zaguán is a showcase of six dance scenes played to live guitar music composed by guitarist Jesús Torres with arrangement by David Picazo, in different palos (streams) of flamenco choreographed by four prominent artists, namely Blanca del Rey, Mercedes Ruiz, La Lupi and Marco Flores.
The first dance, Obertura, is a combination of Seguiriya and Toná, sounded a cool but powerful beginning, with 18 dancers in their own unique costumes in black but mixed with grey or white. The second dance, Encuentro, is a happy and lively duo of Cantiñas de Córdoba performed by Sara Arévalo with bata de cola (long tail) and Eduardo Martínez. It is then followed by Puerto Caimán, a mix piece of Guajira and Milonga, which brings surprise and freshness for five bailaors (male dancers) to perform Guajira, a palo usually danced by females. After that, it is Fonda de Carmencita, adopting the palo of Tangos, danced by seven bailaoras (female dancers) as ladies in elegant dresses except one in trousers, playing in a garden and showing off their dancing talents.
The mood changes to a solemn but fiery one with Soleá del Mantón (shawl) danced by Esther Jurado. The music, the singing, the dance and the clapping perfectly interweave with each other, but the heat could be further aroused if there were jaleos (shouts to cheer) stirring up the atmosphere. Zaguán ends with the Aire del recuerdo danced by 25 dancers on stage, intervened with a few solo pieces of Bulerias, demonstrating the joyous culture of flamenco.
Alento is a collection of previous pieces of classical Spanish dance and other types of dances choreographed by Antonio Najarro, who is inspired by the scores of composer, guitarist and fellow traveller Fernando Egozcue. The music was performed by the Community of Madrid Orchestra and Egozcue himself.
With 18 dancers playing castanets, Origen marks a grand opening after the intermission. A thin light blue curtain is then hung down to mask over the whole stage. As if dawn breaking through, Sergio Bernal, with Aloña Alonso at his front, breaks a hole in the middle of the curtain. Their pas de deux in Luz presents the virtuosity and beauty in the fusion of ballet and modern dance. Then, Ánimas is performed by five bailaoras with detachable grey long tails dancing like fairies in a forest, with a dramatic ending when their removed long tails are hung up to the air. Afterwards, the Ácecho danced by nine bailaors is a highly masculine fusion with jazz. Energy pours off the stage. It is followed by a solo piece, Ser, danced by Inmaculada Salomón with castanets and a long tail dress in the first part, then becoming a fusion with modern dance. Her elegant movement is a gem of femininity and sensitivity. In contrast to the gentleness, the last dance with castanets by 28 dancers, Alento, pours off energy and intensity from the stage. Its virtuosic skills, fast movement and exuberant alignment offers a feast for the eyes.
An unobvious flaw was that the sounds of footstep created by the flamenco shoes were not so clear and melodious when dancing on sprung floors – a costly installation for protecting the dancers’ feet. Despite this, with impressive costumes designed by Yaiza Pinillos and Teresa Helbig (ACME), as well as lighting design by Nicolás Fischel, BNE’s Zaguán & Alento were uplifting and stunning.
Alento; Photo: Fernando Marcos
Lee participated in Dance Enhance in 2015 and 2017, a dance appreciation and criticism writing program organized by the Hong Kong Dance Alliance. She is currently studying a Doctor of Applied Language Sciences program at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and has studied flamenco since 2009.
Zaguán & Alento
Artistic Director: Antonio Najarro
Performance: 21 September 2018 20:00 Auditorium, Shatin Town Hall