Choreographers: Carlos Pons Guerra, Luca Silvestrini
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
In most cases, variety is no bad thing, but tonight’s pairing of the Sardoville Dance Theatre’s rather dry A Matter of Impression with De Nada’s surreal, sexy O Maria is a slightly baffling one. The latter, an over-the-top subversion of Spanish culture, taking in sex, Catholicism and food, should be the piece that feels self-indulgent, but instead it’s Sardoville’s stripped down, deconstructed piece that falls into this trap. Right from the start, with three dancers warming up on stage, breathing deeply and stretching, it seems like a parody of a contemporary dance performance. When one of the dancers addresses the audience, with a poorly written and weakly performed script, it’s to tell us how dancers do nothing but moan – about what went wrong, about how underfunded their work is – and to explain the work, which is, apparently, going to be about listening. In a few moments of unnecessary audience participation, we are invited to close our eyes and listen to the sounds in the room.
The narrative continues as the dance begins, the three dancers breathlessly delivering lines, meaning that it’s difficult for us – or them – to focus on either. Two stories are told of boys discovering the joy of dance but neither of the performers has the delivery skills to make the stories at all compelling, and the piece is only partially saved by some impressive break dancing which is then repeated at a slow, meditative pace. The only real highlight of a mostly unsuccessful twenty-five-minute piece.
After a rather drawn out interval, De Nada considerably raise the bar. Lorca meets Dali in this darkly funny, lyrical and passionate tale of bondage, religion and Jamón. We’re instantly transported to a Spanish kitchen, confronted with a bound and masked figure, and a dominatrix that advances like a charging bull. The company conjure a swelteringly hot Seville night, where all sorts of crazy nightmarish sexual games get played out, and where a visitation from a cross-dressed Virgin Mary only adds to the (delightful) debauchery. The tantalising unveiling of a mysterious object, hidden beneath a cotton sheet, reveals a ham that almost becomes a fourth character on the stage as it joins in the action. Never will this reviewer look at a Jamón Ibérico in the same light again.
O Maria is wonderfully crafted and beautifully lit, creating some moments that have the jewel-like quality of a Renaissance painting. The intimacy of the studio space puts the audience close up with the action, making it a really quite visceral experience. It doesn’t hold back though, you’ll possibly find it offensive…more likely you’ll find it sensually delicious.
Reviewed on 29 March 2017 | Image: (O Maria) Brian Slater