DanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Ham and Passion – Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Choreographer: Carlos Pons Guerra

Producer: Sarah Sheard

Reviewer: Katie Lee

A Spanish dance company formed in Leeds, DeNada Dance Theatre present the final show as part of their current tour, deliciously named Ham and Passion. Choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra studied at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so is no stranger to this neck of the woods. This makes Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill an appropriate venue to wrap up proceedings.

The first in the trio of performances is entitled Passionaria after Anna La Passionaria, the drag artiste subject. Far from a stereotypical drag performance, this is a well observed, emotional and sultry exploration. The viewer sees two sides of Anna, played here by Marivi Da Silva. Complete with a grotesque hairnet and make-up at the start, she blooms into a glitter adorned professional by the close. Barnaby Booth’s lighting design is impeccable. Low racks of bulbs evoke a candlelit boudoir, changing between red and blue fills with dramatic spots to delicately switch the mood between the frustrated person offstage and elegant performer on.

Next up is Young Man! an evocative tale of two lovers. Choreography plays on Spanish motifs, with flamenco poses and bullfighting sequences creating dichotomies and drama. Capoeira influences embody the struggle and frisson between the characters played by Lisard Tranis and Phil Sanger, with deft partner-work captivating the audience until moments of humour. Luke Wilson and Clive Wilkinson provide a trippy Hispanic soundtrack that involves panning the music from side to side, capturing the frantic and seductive mood of the piece.

The real star of the show is the leg of Iberian ham. It plays a significant role in each segment, supported by cameos from a stick of chorizo and some chicken fillets. The phallic imagery is not for the faint-hearted but is all decidedly appropriate to the tone and wit of the show.

The final work, O Maria, is a reflection on the influence of religion on sexuality and gender. This is where the costumes excel, with swathes of fabric becoming characters in their own right. Skirts and sleeves envelop, intertwine and emphasise the fluidity of movement, particularly as all three dancers conjoin towards the end in a heated frenzy.

Throughout the performances, machismo is derided and undercut, with ideas of gender challenged and toyed with. A sense of urgency drives the choreography, assisting the dancers to connect with the audience. Particularly effective is the way Pons Guerra’s choices encourage the viewer to question the performative nature of masculinity, through provocation, humour and a large slab of meat.

Reviewed on 26 February 2016 | Image: Contributed

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