Featuring experimentation with movements as diverse as the troupe of dancers who performed them, last Friday’s performance by Spain’s National Junior Ballet Company was exquisite. The company performed three pieces, all choreographed by Artistic Director Nacho Duato, whose work featured the use of graceful and strong technical ballet combined with an innovative contemporary flair.
This gave the dancers an incredible presence as they covered the stage. Each movement carried great purpose and the variation of shapes and spatial relations created a unique musicality to the dancers’ motions.
Duato considers his choreography “physical illustrations of the music,” Co-Artistic Director Tony Fabre told the audience during a Q&A session that followed the performance.
The show opened with a piece titled “Duende,” a piece about elves, fairies and naughty children. Set to Debussy, the event’s program stated that when Duato hears this music, he “visualizes shape…this is why he considers ‘Duende’ an almost sculptural work.”
The use of shape was indeed evident. Every change in the dancers’ bodies – from graceful pirouette to flexed kicks and bends – flowed easily into the next, and perfectly transported the audience into the fantastic realm of the fairy tale. Dressed in simple teal and blue, the detail of the dancers’ body movements was so complex that no grand, elaborate backgrounds or sets were needed.
The second piece, “Without Words,” hinged upon the dancers’ grace and personality to orchestrate an intimate view of love and death. Dressed in simple, nude-colored costumes, the importance of the dancers’ forms was highlighted in this number. Exhibiting the strength of the individual dancers and their incredible connection to one another, Duato’s piece, originally created for the American Ballet Theater, was brilliantly executed by this junior company.
Lastly, inspired by the flavors of his Mediterranean heritage, Duato created “Gnawa,” an amazing dance invoking the rhythms of the Gnawa people of Morocco and their interactions with Spanish culture and music. In this number, the dancers moved through a seemingly sacred space, carrying candles and wearing the evening’s most elaborate costumes. The lead dancer, however, remained in her nude suit from “Without Words,” and her duet, set to gentle nature sounds and bathed in blue light, marked a contrast to the high-energy beats of the larger group. When the two parts came together at the end, the connection between members of the company was electric. They molded together in circles and expanded to reach all parts of the stage, smiling at the audience as they finished with a flourish.
The joy of the audience was evident as the sounds of applause resounded long after the final number, forcing the dancers to bow about six times. After the show, I got the chance to speak in detail with my friends who attended. The magical effect of the performance was clear and as one remarked that Compañía had been the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. I couldn’t agree more.