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