Ballet Nacional de Espana @ Coliseum, London

It is a great thing to see Spanish dance styles gain in popularity, as the Ballet Nacional de Espaa a misleading name, mind, with its mix of modern dance and Spanish folk styles such as flamenco makes its first London Coliseum appearance.

After all, it wasnt long ago that Rojas and Rodriguez, the darlings of Spanish modern dance, took their Nuevo Ballet Espaol to Sadlers Wells (and not long before that, the Peacock Theatre).
The first piece of the programme, Dualia, is in fact a revival of a 2007 work created by said darlings, Rojas and Rodriguez. From a dark and mysterious start, in a bullfight-inspired sequence, the dance gradually picks up in pace to express the youthfulness and sensuality the choreographers tried to inject into the piece.

Miguel ngel Corbacho and Jess Carmonas red duet was particularly memorable, combining male virtuosity with an underlying sexiness. At times it is a conventional partnership, but others its reminiscent of a dual between two competing forces, and makes for compelling viewing.

It is equally refreshing to see individuality on show. Unlike some other styles where certain group scenes require conformity and precision to make an impact (think of ballets swan maidens, for example), here it is the differences that set the ensemble scenes alight, with no one way of curving the arms or arching the back.

For its Coliseum debut, the troop has invited the Royal Ballets eternally watchable Tamara Rojo as a guest artist, performing a pas de deux with Corbacho. Was this a deliberate attempt to pull in a different crowd? Well never know, but having a well known principle of the UKs biggest dace company was never going to harm the proceedings.

Unfortunately, Romance de Luna did not pack enough of a punch to show off this valuable asset. Under the moonlight, the lovers meet but their story is never quite made clear. Even as they reach the end of their rendezvous, she lifted high up as he steps into the darkness, we are none the wiser; a fleeting visit that is difficult to make an emotional connection with.

Romance de Luna is the most modern out of the three pieces on the bill, where Spanish elements hardly feature. Yes, this is very much a dance for the female (the male part is essentially reduced to support), and Rojos classical heritage does set her apart in her performing style, but it leaves you with a sense of unfinished business, a climax that never arrived.

La Leyenda is director Jos Antonios homage to dancer Carmen Amaya but rather than a narrative biographical affair, Atonio has opted for a series of snapshots, of moments and events in Amayas life.

Antonio has said that he wanted to portray the duality of Amaya, as artist and as real person, and here it is presented as a series of dichotomies. Where this is put to best use is the tango-esque duet between Elena Algado and Cristina Gmez one as a feminine Carmen and the other her tougher male persona, dressed in a stylish tango suit.

But the dichotomy notion does run into some problems: while the male/female portrayal has been executed well, others are coarser, such as the black and white dresses stunning as they were in the final scene.

The energy level, though, is not sustained throughout the work the ensemble pieces, particularly in contrast to the sections featuring the two Amayas, blended in with each other somewhat. For the untrained eye, its hard to decipher the footsteps, which are mostly grounded and performed in parallel. Perhaps its more about the rhythm and sounds produced by the steps rather than the steps themselves, which must be considered alongside the rather fantastic playing of castanets. But the choreography simply didnt make the grade, and in turn the steps felt repetitive.

While at times the energy in the performance is undeniable and infectious, overall it lacks the drama to give the show the vitality that makes you forget your immediate surroundings and transports you to the streets of Spain amongst the heat and the passion. It is all a little polite.

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