By: Harry Oram
It was Friday night at Sha Tin Town Hall Auditorium. The theatre was packed; the audience buzzing, waiting for the first of only two shows that Maria Pages and Company would be performing in Hong Kong. It seemed I was not the only Flamenco fan here tonight.
The curtains opened to a dark bare stage. As the lights slowly raised they illuminated and introduced the fifteen artists that would be performing. It was clear that the focus of the show would be the artists and not the set. Throughout the show the staging and lighting was beautiful. Everything so deliberate with the way the artists play and dance in and out of the light.
On stage were not only dancers, but singers and musicians. In true Flamenco fashion the singing was soulful and beautiful to hear. What I really enjoyed from the outset were the themes and focus of the show. One famous aspect of Flamenco is its large flowing and beautiful dresses. But here on this simplified stage all the artists were wearing was a basic greyish uniform. All the beauty of the show initially would come from the music, the singing and the dance.
Maria Pages provides a detailed programme for the show. It mentions the eight landscapes and themes they explore throughout the show, themes that were the result of two years of ‘investigation’ marked by readings, visions, pictorial, musical and architectural and sculptural references, especially the works and philosophy of architect Oscar Niemeyer.
This show sets out to be and is an exploration of many themes through the art of Flamenco. Each set for each theme is created by the staging of the artists, using their bodies and the light, creatively expanding the space, or isolating an area, then clustering together, and making you feel like you've been invited to some intimate party and are along for the fun. Three long metallic bars are suspended above the stage, creatively manipulated with wires to make them curve into different wave patterns. These are also lowered and raised onto the stage, creating new spaces for the artists to dance in and out of. As she says in her program notes: “the staging is liberated…refined to the extreme, primordial and original”.
From an audience perspective it was often like watching still photographs of the show - a lovely contrast to witnessing the organic dancing of the artists, which at times felt so natural, as if they were making it up on the spot, then watching these clearly well staged, well lit and thought out poses that created lasting images in my mind. The whole show was beautiful and mesmerizing to watch.
In contrast to the grey uniforms the artists wear at the start, Maria Pages later performs a piece in an incredible red flowing dress (featured on the cover of the program). She begins in a pose like a statue at the centre of the stage, the musicians in the background, allowing her to have the attention. The blood red dress beamed in contrast to the grey before, and draped around her on the floor, spilling out as if in a pool of fabric. It was an incredible performance to watch as she masterfully manipulated this dress and her body, sometimes wrapping the dress about her to create new poses and images. It was like watching a master at the height of her powers exploring her art in front of you. The images, the music and the sound of her dancing was emotional and moving.
Much of the show followed this theme of exploration and expression through dance and was indeed emotional. This ran the risk of perhaps striking the same note too often and I feared I might get bored of watching something that was indeed at first very powerful, moving and thought evoking. But the show does a great job of changing it up in pace and style. One of my favourite pieces was when all the artists gathered near the front of the stage at first to listen to one of the musicians sing and play. It was wonderful to see all the artists so engaged and supportive of each other and having such a great time. In Flamenco fashion they would whoop and cheer each other on and then begin dancing to the music. It felt as if we were at some party at a beach in Brazil or relaxing in a bar in Barcelona. Later the female dancers engaged in a “fan battle”, fans again creating deliberate and beautiful images with their bodies as well as the fans, making it seem so organic and natural.
If you appreciate Flamenco music or dancing you will absolutely love this show. Even if you are not a fan, you will still enjoy the performances and the artistry. And if you have never been before, I encourage you to go because not only was it one of the best Flamenco shows I have seen, it was one of the best shows of any art form I have had the privilege to watch.
Utopia is playing at Sha Tin Town Hall through April 20th. For more information, click here.
eddyOnce again Harry proves he's a good actor and a shit writer. Perhaps he should stick to what he does best
20 April 2013
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