Agudo Dance Company’s Carmen takes a fresh look at a familiar narrative, using a movement vocabulary that draws on Flamenco, Kathak and contemporary dance.  At the start, seven beams of light from above gradually illuminate each of the dancers, as they crouch in darkness on the floor, slowly creeping towards the audience, their hands clasped behind their backs.  The four men and three women dance barefoot, so the sound of Flamenco rhythms comes not so much from their beating feet as from composer Bernhard Schimpelsberger’s percussive score.

Jose Agudo has created an expressive and exciting dance style that successfully integrates Kathak-like footwork with the strong oppositions, arched backs and intense focus of Flamenco, and the freedom and generous breadth of contemporary dance technique.  The dancers move with strongly supported upper backs and arms as they perform swift glissade-type steps, pirouettes en dehors in attitude, dramatic spinning turns that freeze abruptly, and quick backward flicks of the foot.

Although there is a story, taken direct from Prosper Mérimée’s novella rather than from Bizet’s opera, this is not a detailed retelling of the tale.  Carmen’s relationships with the other dancers form the heart of the work, whether she is competing angrily with another woman or ensnaring the man who will eventually kill her.  We know that he is an outsider from the subtle flashes of red in the lining of his jerkin, which match her scarlet dress as they perform a duet that consists almost entirely of complex and erotically charge lifts, in which she seems hardly to touch the ground.  The women’s swirling skirts, the rugged machismo of the men, and the music interwoven with a thread of Cuban Bolero create an exotic, dangerous and reckless atmosphere.  Carmen’s death seems inevitable, and when at the end her lover holds her lifeless body in his arms, she seems to be a sacrificial victim, mourned by her companions in a frenzied dance.

This was collective work, and as the cast list did not attribute roles to individuals, I name all the dancers:  Nikita Goile, Joshua Scott, Luke Watson, Yukiko Masui, Faye Stoeser, Juan Sánchez Plaza and Nicola Micallef.

Maggie Watson

3rd November 2021

Find out more about Jose Agudo and his company here

An interesting mix of performances in the flesh and on the screen last week with two cinema visits for 20th century classics and new works transmitted by the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet framing live performance of German contemporary dance from Sasha Waltz and Guests at Sadler’s Wells. If I dislike the cinema transmissions’ overhyped introductory promos and some excessively effusive commentary, I do enjoy seeing the interiors of other theatres, and some of the informative interview and documentary material provided. Close-ups highlight intriguing details of the dance, although sometimes at a price of losing their relationship with the wider stage environment; differing camera angles risk obscuring spatial design and choreographic architecture.

The Royal Ballet’s first transmission of a mixed bill marked the final farewell of much loved Carlos Acosta from the Covent Garden main stage starring as Don Jose in his own new version of Carmen. (more…)

Enjoy four short ballets in one evening with this quadruple programme from The Royal Ballet, in a live Screen Arts transmission showing at the Phoenix Picturehouse.  Carlos Acosta focuses on the dramatic essentials of love, jealousy and revenge in his new production of Carmen. As well as choreographing the production, Acosta will dance the lead role.  Liam Scarlett has used Lowell Liebermann’s thrilling Piano Concerto No.1 as the inspiration for his similarly audacious choreography in Viscera.  Debussy’s evocative score is the inspiration for Jerome RobbinsAfternoon of a Faun, which depicts two ballet dancers as absorbed by their own reflections as they are attracted to each other.  George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky pas de deux uses a fragment of music composed for the 1877 production of Swan Lake for a display of ballet bravura and technique.

Date:  Thursday 12th November 2015, 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Book tickets online here or phone 0871 902 5736