Reviewer: Vicky Bell
To borrow a phrase from sport for a moment Aeternum was very much a game of two halves. The first a confused narrative of the supernatural where the undeniably talented dancers seemed trapped by the choreographic structure imposed on them; and the second a fine demonstration of physical prowess with a bit of cheekiness thrown in.
For those who might not know Los Vivancos, they are a company of seven testosterone-fuelled performers trained in dance, music and martial arts. Starting with the passionate and rhythmic base of Flamenco the group look to push the dance and themselves to the limits.
In Aeternum however the extremes of what the performers could achieve was much more accomplished than any innovation of Flamenco. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider their artistic advisors for this work are Daniele Finzi Pasca and Julie Hameln, both experienced in modern circus rather than traditional Spanish folk dance.
There was certainly a feeling of excited anticipation as we entered the auditorium more akin to circus than to dance. We wanted to see them do something spectacular, we wanted to admire their strength and bravery and some of us wanted to admire the bodies sculpted to undertake this task too! (Don’t blame me they encourage this in their publicity).
We may therefore have been unprepared when the show started with a series of dances combining contemporary and flamenco dance setting up the supernatural world the piece would inhabit. The dance was well executed but it failed to harness the excitement of the audience; the choreography was safe and predictable and the traditions and passion of flamenco seemed to be contained upon the stage.
Then slowly tricks crept in, gimmicky perhaps, but nevertheless impressive feats of just what the body is capable of – splits held in mid air while playing the strings of the soundtrack is just one such example. Now they were showing us what they could do. We seemed to have lost the narrative and this was unquestionably performers showing off, but their skill was admirable. They were enjoying themselves, engaging with the audience and we were cheering them on.
Combining a symphony orchestra, the sound of flamenco and a rock band this was a big soundtrack for a big occasion, even if the live performers seemed underused. The lighting, a little lazy for a dance performance, would have been more at home at a rock concert and by the end it seemed the performers may have been too.
This was a performance event that felt constricted by the conventions of a traditional theatre environment and would have been more at home in a stadium or big top where a weak narrative could have been left behind for the exhilaration of incredible footwork and remarkable demonstrations of physical prowess.