Saturday, April 28, 2012

Carmen: Story of Passion


Verb Ballets is in the midst of a reinvigoration project. The company has added several much needed new male dancers. The results were positively displayed in their production of CARMEN: STORY OF PASSION, their entry in DANCEWORKS 2012.

CARMEN is a sensual ballet based on Georges Bizet’s four-act opera. The music is noted for its melody, harmony and emotionality. It creates the proper mood for compassionate dance.

Choreographer Richard Dickinson has created a short story piece which takes advantage of the quality of the music, Verb’s new male dancers, and its fine female corps. 

Physically, the audience is seated in a formation that resembles a bull fighting ring. It fits the story of Carment, the fiery gypsy, who seduces men including Don José, a naïve soldier. In a fit of rage, Don José kills Escamillo, the glamorous toreador, who is another of Carmen’s lovers. The story highlights jealousy, immorality, lawlessness, seduction, sorrow, and revenge.

The entire company sets the proper moods. The audience is seduced into complicity as the dancers use empty chairs in the seating segment between exits and entrances.

The night I attended, Kara Madden, with flashing eyes and seductive moves, convincingly portrayed the hot tempered Carmen. Arthur Prettyman well danced Don José, Katie Gnagy portrayed Micaela, Don José’s jilted lover, with yearning tenderness. 

Brian Murphy’s take on Escamillo was refreshing. Usually the role is sung (in the opera) and danced (in the ballet version) with the egocentric disdain of an idolized toreador. Murphy, instead, gave a human quality to the characterization. Or Sagi, as Lieutenant Luniga, has a captivating stage presence which gives an added dimension to the male Verb presence.

Janet Bolick’s costumes fit the mood and era of the setting.

The missing element for many was the absence of the famous bull ring cape routine which is one of Verbs’ signature pieces. Though a wonderful visual image, it was wisely omitted. It would have distracted rather than added to the Dickinsonian image of the piece.