On May 15, Campbell Hall was crammed with a sold-out crowd of baby boomers, silver-haired socialites, college kids, families and couples obviously on dates. The crowd was eclectic to say the least – a fitting tribute to the performance everyone was gathered to see.
Created by famed choreographer and artistic director Nacho Duato, Compa-‘a Nacional de Danza 2 is a Spanish company known for its innovative and, dare I say eclectic, combination of classical ballet, contemporary choreography and traditional Spanish cultural motifs. Last week’s Santa Barbara performance featured the company in three of its most well-known works.
First up was “Remansos,” a highly graphic piece in which the dancers’ bodies were clearly the centerpiece. Combining dynamic classic ballet techniques with a wide variety of movements taken from acrobatics, yoga, modern dance and even what looked like club dancing, the piece was all about the drama and power of the dancers’ supple muscles as they climbed walls, balanced on each other’s legs and even frog hopped across the stage. With minimal costumes, a small, simple scrim for a backdrop and a single rose as the only prop, the dance was a showcase for the power and prowess of its participants, and a perfect start to an evening of entertaining and breathtaking bodily manipulations.
The second piece was entitled “Jardi Tancat,” and according to the program, it portrayed scenes of couples during the “sowing, planting and threshing of the barren Catalonian land” as a tribute to the prideful spirit of the Catalonian people. With the dancers in clothing that was clearly evocative of simple peasant apparel, and the stage surrounded by a border of what looked like posts straight out of a field, the theme was apparent even without reading the program. The fact that the piece was set to stirring Majorcan work songs, blasted at full, awe-inducing volume from the hall’s speakers, really drove the whole theme home, so to speak. Either way, the dancers were once again stunning in their mastery of both the technical facets of the work as well as the dramatic ones. Unlike the first piece, “Jardi Tancat” was a much more literal and plot-driven work, with many of the dancers’ movements directly evoking farm work and their facial expressions fully and effectively conveying the powerful message of the piece.
The final piece was nothing short of mesmerizing. Set to a repetitive recitation of sentences from a letter by Sam Melville, a political prisoner killed in the 1971 Attica prison riots, and fast-paced electronica music, “Coming Together” was a hypnotic and frenzied whirlwind of movement. This high-energy work featured about 12 dancers performing a combination of complicated point-work and furiously fast contemporary movements, with whimsical nods to Latin dancing, vaudeville routines, performance art and everything in between thrown in. During the piece, soloists showed off their skills, and at one particularly powerful point, the stage went completely dark save for two spotlights highlighting an incredibly skilled pair of dancers who commanded the stage. It was a rare moment of calm in what was an otherwise heart-wrenchingly high-paced piece – the completion of which resulted in a collective sigh of amazement and an almost immediate eruption of applause from every member of the packed audience. Campbell Hall may have been filled with an unusually diverse crowd, but it was clear that every member of the eclectic audience agreed that the show they came to see was well worth their time, money and applause.