The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

A fitting tribute

Malta Independent Sunday, 6 April 2014, 12:03 Last update: about 6 years ago

On 15 and 16 February, we had the pleasure to witness Mu-Danzas Boleras at our national theatre. The performance was an artistic creation of Sharon Sapienza and a tribute to her memory. Sharon’s untimely death, just over a year ago, shocked all that knew her in the dance world as well as those who knew and loved her personally. And of course there were many in Malta which made the performance even more poignant and emotional, both for the dancers performing and the audience.

I attended the performance on 16 February which saw a full house. The curtains opened to a dark and eerie scene with smoke filling the stage and the first few rows of the auditorium depicting war times of 1812. We were immediately introduced to the Cadiz theatre with a small company comprised of the choreographer El Romancero danced by José Manuel Buzon and four dancers. La Campanera (Penelope Sanchez) La Maja (Elena Mino) El Majo (Daniel Morillo) and El Torero (Sergio Garcia).

I loved the way the dancers on stage held their back to us bowing to their imaginary audience (the cyclorama). It was a clever way of immediately and simply depicting the theatre scene of the 1812 when the Bolero was all the rage. Soon after, La Francesca (Myriam Manso) entered the stage to join the company. I wonder if the character was based on the ballet dancer Francesca Cerrito? All the well-known dancers of that era all wanted to learn the Bolero.

We were slowly introduced to the history of the Escuela Bolera repertoire based on Pericet traditions, starting with a Fandango, the forerunner of the Bolero. I particularly enjoyed the Olé de la Curra, where certain sections were repeated as La Campanera – the dance teacher tried to teach La Francesca to dance in a more flirtatious Spanish manner.

It was immediately clear from this point that the choreographer for the production Francisco Velasco and the historical researcher Juan Vergillos had put much thought behind the storyline basing stock characters on dancers directly connected to 1812. After the performance, talking to Sylvie Nys, who wrote the script and stage directed the performance, I commented that each dancer had their own particular signature, yet blended very well together. Sylvie told me the dancers were especially cast for their particular qualities.

Myriam Manso Izquierdo was so delicate and feminine, perfectly cast as ‘the ballet dancer’ who slowly morphed into a seductive Spanish dancer. Penelope Sanchez as La Campanera was a strong force on stage, both technically and in her own interpretation of the ballet mistress, clearly depicting her insecurities and jealousies of a younger dancer joining the troupe. Elena Mino, as La Maja – The Lady – displayed astounding elevation, as well as charming interplay with the male dancers on stage. Sergio Garcia as El Torero was a feast for the eye. Passionate, seductive, displaying impressive technique – a perfect bullfighter. José Manuel Buzon as El Romancero – The Choreographer was a very credible actor having the audience in stitches as he danced a very drunk Sevillianas. Daniel Morillo as El Majo danced with elegance and charm most befitting for a gentleman.

Through these characters, particularly the choreographer, we were introduced to a very refreshing interpretation, although very much based on the original choreography of Pericet, of Olé de la Curra, Panaderos de la Flamenca, Soleares de Arcas, Sevillanas Boleras, Jaleo de Jerez, El Vito, Zapateado de Maria Cristina, La Maya y El Torero, Bolero Liso and Bolero de la Cachucha. The musical compositions based on the original melodies, of course, by Agustin Diassera and Paco Cruzado, for me personally added a new dimension making the repertoire we all know so well through the Spanish Dance Society and Dame Marina Keet’s DVD and book on the Escuela Bolera, much more stimulating and enjoyable. The rhythmic percussion, behind the melodies, worked well and blended perfectly with the castanets making the dances more relative to today’s audience.

The finale, bringing the Escuela Bolera up to the 21st Century, was simply stunning. Here, the choreographer was allowed to let loose and the dancers display their technical virtuosity. Simple, yet effective white costumes where somehow befitting for a final farewell to our dear Sharon. Speaking to the dancers later, they all said that the performance in Malta was very emotional for them as it was being performed in Sharon’s native country and it was indeed her wish to bring the production to Malta. The whole performance felt very alive and one felt very connected to the beautiful dancers on stage who brought Sharon‘s artistic creation to life.


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