The drive to Long Street in Cape Town was painless as was finding a parking spot just up the road from the On Broadway Theatre. As we approached the venue, we could feel the buzz from the various café’s and restaurants before we mounted the stairs to take our seats in the cleverly designed theatre. The rake is so steep that there are clear sight lines from every seat and the stage is small but adequate.
Last night this theatre was packed to capacity and an expectant crowd settled down to the strains of “Broadway” which appropriately set the tone.
Bells tolled while the dancers and musicians took the stage and then that small wooden stage was subjected to the most vigorous pounding it had ever experienced!
The opening number “Temperamentos” was performed by six female dancers with unrelenting intensity in both their facial expressions and matching power in their feet and hand movements—an explosive start to the evening.
This was a tough act to follow but we were not disappointed-- on strutted three local male dancers who exuded power, arrogance and mastery. Their timing was perfect, their precision stunning and the rapport between them was tangible though each man was totally involved with his own ego. The realisation hit me of how very similar the manly bearing of African men echoes that of Spanish.
The audience sat enthralled by this exhibition of virility which built up to a fever pitch—I for one couldn’t breathe at the end of it and I wasn’t the one doing the dancing….
Luckily we could all take a breath after that along with a dancer who took a seat on the stage and sang as accompaniment for the next number. There was a most satisfying synchronicity between the passion in the voice of the singer and in the bodies of the dancers.
The mood then changed to a more playful and sensuous one though again the rhythms of the dancers’ feet and hands reached into my chest cavity and made my heart pound.
These rhythms were complex enough created with each dancer’s two feet, but now the men returned, this time with canes which effectively created even more complex sounds combined with their feet as they pounded them onto the echoing wooden floor.
Next the singers launched into “Thula Baba” bringing an unexpected change of pace and language and the dancers matched this with the emphasis on beautifully lyrical arm movements. Despite this tranquil beginning, this dance built up into a fever pitch so the baba was well and truly woken up by the end!
And so the program proceeded with each number bringing fresh nuances and angles to the genre. You will have to get to the show to appreciate the full impact so do yourself a favour and GO! For both the cognoscenti and the newcomers to Spanish dance—this show is entertainment personified.
A word about the costuming: an effective use was made of black, white and red starting with all black and introducing white and then red to the picture as the numbers proceeded. The layered look which seems to be a trend lately was in evidence and of course fringing and shawls added to the movement and to the stories created on the stage. A small quibble could be that the pants of the men and their waistcoats could be made a little longer for a better look.
The whole company danced with total commitment, technical expertise and were thoroughly drilled. One criticism could be levelled at the men who at times seemed not to be working into the ground enough. They tended to rise up and did not maintain the bent knees usually associated with this style. This of course could be a deliberate choice and a stylistic departure.
The ensemble of musicians showed virtuosity and an empathic connection to the dancing—each element enhancing the talent of the other. Guitars, cello, percussion and wind instruments with the fabulous lead singer and two accompanying singers all created magic together. I was told that the effect of the wind instruments echoed the original flamenco sound which incorporated Moorish influences and in fact used bagpipes—the actual origin of these not being in fact from Scotland….. This creates a different dynamic to the music and is a signature aspect of the La Rosa Company.
Carolyn Holden is a one human dynamo and creator of note. She has dedicated her life to bringing the power and excitement of Spanish dance to South Africans, to collaborations and fusions with African and Indian culture and to immersing her very lucky dancers in her company and her outreach program fully into the Spanish language, idiom and ethos. When asked how she developed an interest in Spanish dance, she replied that her mother, renowned ballet teacher Barbara Holden, took her to see Flamenco dancing when she was 10 years old. She told her then that this is what she wanted to do. So after duly getting ballet training from mum, she fulfilled her dream. As she says, Flamenco dance comes from a very different place to ballet— flamenco is very tribal—thus possibly the appeal for South African dancers.
To be truly effective, Spanish dance needs dancers who exude maturity and who can capture depth of emotion as opposed to just performing a series of steps. It is a testimony to the skilled guidance of Carolyn Holden that her dancers though young, passed this test with flying colours.
Here she is, at the tip of Africa, a true South African to the core but in her body beats a Spanish heart.
We can only say: “OLE’ and BRAVO MAESTRA!”
For more Information on "Celebración Flamenca", click on link below.
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