Last year, Nacho Duato’s choreography came to Santa Barbara by way of the Compañía Nacional de Danza’s junior company. The troupe’s performance told stories of fairies and the natural joy of dancing. Tuesday night at the Granada, Nacho Duato came to Santa Barbara for his Compañía farewell tour, presenting the senior company in a much darker exploration of dance.
This year’s performance featured three separate works: Arenal, Castrati, and Cobalto, all of which captivated the audience through their dramatic tension and incredible form, leading viewers through a history of Duato’s work with the company.
In a post-show Q&A session with Nacho Duato, Compañía’s artistic director for 20 years, the artist commented on the progression and transformation of his work, noting the darkness and intimacy of his newer ballets. Duato said that in creating his earlier work, he focused more on opening doors of expression out into the world.
“Slowly, my latest works are more like opening doors to myself,” Duato said. “So it becomes more obscure; more intimate.”
Duato said that he views his choreographing style in a manner similar to a sculptor, attempting to find the correct movement for the music, a characteristic evident in the precision of his dancers and their presence onstage.
The evening began with Arenal, one of Duato’s earlier works from 1988, a piece demonstrating a contrast between joyous partner dancing and the expression of a lone woman’s solitary steps. Arenal expresses his love of partner work, always executed with extreme fluidity and beautiful grace. The suffering of the lone dancer began a theme which carried through the evenings other performances.
Castrati, set to music by Antonio Vivaldi, is a work from 2002 that captures the horror and pain experienced by male castrati within old opera traditions. The work tells the story of a castrati initiate who ultimately, cannot escape and ends with blood on his hands. This man’s dance continues a sequence of works surrounding a solitary figure among an imposing group. His inner trauma is expressed in quivers and fast motions that contrast the assured grace of menacing elders who encircle him and execute his fate.
Duato said that he likes his work to be at the edge of things and the most recent piece displayed in Tuesday’s performance certainly shows that.
Created in 2009, Cobalto is a physical representation of erotic dreams and fantasies, a work that Duato says takes place within what happens inside the audience’s mind as they are watching. The work begins with a nearly nude couple, and then moves to various ensembles dressed in black. The music is deep organ mixed with startling sounds and high pitched sirens, all of which come together as the dancers pass from scene to scene, eventually ending where they began, in an intimate moment between the nude couple.
Duato has truly created something wonderful with Compañía, and Tuesday’s showcase of their work together is evidence.
“I think you make ballets because you want to share something with your dancers first and then the audience,” Duato said. “And through the work, you learn more about yourself and life.”