The Grand Tour: Part 9 — Stamp Your Feet

SEVILLE, Spain — While in Seville we ventured out for some Spanish theater. We know going in that we would not understand everything — or even anything — but we wanted to give it a shot.

Flamenco3Fortunately, the first show we saw did not need translating. It was a performance that fused classical flamenco, modern dance and theater, titled “Poema Sinfonica,” choreographed by Annabel Veloso.

The set was sparse except for a music stand, grand piano, a harp and a cello, along with a small bleacher on which sat the small band of musicians.

flamenco1The male dancer, Angel Muñoz, dressed all in black, moved in obvious anguish between the instruments. It quickly became apparent that he was a composer who was struggling to find inspiration for his music.

His dancing at first was slow moving, punctuated by percussive bursts as his feet pounded to wooden stage at Sala Joaquin Turina theater.

As he slumped over the grand piano, Veloso entered,in a black and white dress, performing a sensual dance that was lithe and inspiring. When she left the stage, Muñoz next went to the harp. This time he was even more percussive. Veloso returned once more wearing an elaborate dress complete with the traditional shawl — the mantón — with a fringe so long that as she arched her back she resembled the strings of the harp.

flamenco4Each of the dances in the 70-minute show reflected a separate instrument, some with musical accompaniment alone, others with the stirring voice of Naike Ponce added to the mix.

As the composer’s inspiration was triggered, the dances became bigger and louder, his feet pounded the floor faster and faster. The final dance between Veloso and Muñoz, the moment when the symphony revealed itself, was a whirlwind of arms and legs and an incredible percussive beat that literally shook our bodies to the core. The ground and the seats were shaking as the two dancers kited the music and the dance to its height.

At the end, the audience let to its feet with applause and cheers. It was a visceral experience and left me shaking with excitement.

The next night we attended a couple of microtheater shows. They were held on the top floor of a bar/restaurant. Each of the five shows that ran almost simultaneously, were 15 to 20 minutes and performed in rooms with an audience of 20 that was right on top of the actors — at the frost show, one of the audience members was squeezed between the two actors.

The first show, whose title I did not write down, was about a woman who is supporting her gay Mexican roommate. She wants something in return, and while the pair banter back and forth, she beats an egg until it completely fluffy. She wants a baby or he has to get out. Even with the obvious language issues, it was pretty clear what was going on, and the pair were expressive and on point. It helped that Catalina, our host, was on hand to cover some of the nuances over drinks between shows.

The second play, “Selfie 666,” dealt with the self-absorption of the famous. The two characters were an actress whose car has broken down, and a strange woman in a blood-stained apron. The actress arrives to use the phone as her cell phone won’t work. She is oblivious to the obvious danger of her surroundings. The other woman has obviously photoshopped selfless of herself with celebrities from Vladimir Putin to Lionel Messi.

The play was not as tight as the other, and played more as farce and caricature, but it had some nice moments.

One extra piece of theater came on our last evening in Seville. After a pleasant time meeting new friends, we came across a street flamenco group. As it was past midnight, the group were no longer on stage as it makes too much noise, but that doesn’t mean they were ready to stop. The dancers welcomed all who wanted to join them with improvised dances and music. Laughter and merriment was the order of the day — or night.

More theater is on the way when we get to England, but this was a perfect glimpse into the art of Spanish culture.

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