DanceDramaReviewSouth West

Ham and Passion – Cygnet Theatre, Exeter

Choreography: Carlos Pons Guerra
Reviewer: Becca Savory Fuller

It might usually be a criticism to say that the star of the show was a bit of a ham, but in this daring dance theatre performance, the statement is literally true. In ‘Ham and Passion’ DeNada Dance Theatre present a series of three provocative pieces performed by three highly talented dancers and one shapely leg of ham.

tell-us-block_editedThe three pieces share a nostalgia-tinged view of life in mid-20th Century Spain, evoking a claustrophobic and passion-filled landscape of characters who burn with longing and despair. Each piece circles around themes of gender and desire, queering traditional gender roles in ways that illuminate the constrictions of gendered social life in post-war Spain.

But to say that this is a piece ‘about’ gender, or the LGBT experience in constricted Catholic Spain, misses the broader universality of the performance taken as a whole. This is a piece about passions and poignantly captures their complexities. Desire is caught in tension with jealousy, bravado masks a wild fragility, and sometimes we need a miracle to help us break out of our destructive relationships.

In Passionara, dancer Fabio Dolce captures the frantic despair of Barcelonan drag artiste, Anna La Passionara. In the intimate venue of the Cygnet, his powerful physicality and technique is viscerally close to the audience, drawing us into her haunted torment. Young Man! is a dance of seduction performed by Marivi Da Silva and Antonette Dayrit, female dancers who expertly capture the physicality of machismo culture with humour and a burning sexuality (and ham).

The final piece, O Maria, draws us into a suffocating and bitter marriage, with Da Silva’s cruel wife tormenting abound and bewildered husband, played by Dayrit. The arrival of a glorious drag Virgin Mary sets in motion the transformations that free them from their mutual destruction, while they in turn release Maria from her pious chastity. Marivi Da Silva shines in both pieces, infusing strong dance technique with the complexity of emotions and character that move the work into a more theatrical genre.

While the three works share a visual landscape and themes, they stand as independent pieces and so the performance perhaps lacks a deeper coherence or overarching trajectory. But this is one of DeNada’s first full-length works, and it will be exciting to watch how the company develops from here. Led by Pons Guerra’s bold aesthetic and passionate landscape, DeNada is an exciting new presence on the UK arts scene.

Runs until 23 Febuary 2017, then touring nationally | Image: Contributed

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