DanceDramaNorth East & YorkshirePhysical TheatreReview

TORO: Beauty & the Bull – Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds

Choreographer: Carlos Pons Guerra

Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

For one evening at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, DeNada Dance Theatre presented Carlos Pons Guerra’s TORO: Beauty & the Bull. The intriguing dance production is dark and has a contemporary retake on the popular fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.

Act one opens with The Girl (Emma Walker) who works as a prostitute at a parlour in South America and whose survival is dependent wholly on men. Soon after, The Bull (Marivi Da Silva) is introduced, appearing as a half animal-half woman. Again, she is the victim of men who prey on her appearance like state. Both The Girl and The Bull meet, and after some hesitancy, they win one another’s trust and love. The three men, however, have other ideas and are determined that both The Girl and The Bull stay apart and become their bondage. 

Act two continues with the Dragimals, drag-like half men, half animals in appearance. At desert’s circus sideshow, their beauty of emotions is physically expressed sensually, provocatively and powerfully at the mercy of their owners. The fight for The Girl and The Bull to be reunited continues with a dramatic challenge from The Matadors, determined in their job.

The production links to Pons Guerra’s Gods and Monsters and the harsh realities faced by members of the gay and drag communities and how fairy tales with characters defined as “monstrous” can offer a fantasy outlook to the realities such communities face. The “beauty within” however can win the trust and love among some. The characters in TORO, similar in vein to Beauty and the Beast, represent women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities who are at the mercy of the “monster”, and we witness their silencing, harassment, colonisation and destruction.

The production has a Hispanic and Latino flair, set to familiar traditional classical music such as Rimsky Korsakov’s Capricho Español. This marries well particularly at the dramatic ending of Act Two with the pulsating Spanish modern hits throughout the production. The company dances powerfully and emotively, leading us through the thought-provoking themes. The staging and costumes play a figurative role in the narrative Pons Guerra is telling, and how this is parallel to the modern world today.

Many fairy tales often have a happy ending, however, TORO doesn’t have this. It is interpreted that marginalisation in society continues to exist but Pons Guerra relies on art offering hope and new understanding in somewhat an increasing complex and unique modern world. TORO is an interesting and thought-provoking production and the redefinition of the monstrous characters is asked.

Reviewed on 14 April 2018 | Image: Emma Kauldhar

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Redefining monsters!

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