Review: Yo Carmen

Look out for Yo Carmen

By Lois Maskiell

Carmen has thrived on world stages since Georges Bizet’s opera of the same name was first performed in Paris 1875. In María Pagés’ Yo Carmen the legendary character is treated to a contemporary flamenco makeover in a performance that drew a lasting standing ovation and proved this classic work continues to be relevant today.

Seville-born dancer and choreographer María Pagés reinvents Bizet’s tale of passion and revenge in an interpretation that ends on a very different note. There’s no blood spilt by a jealous man or woman punished for her strength, but there is a celebration of womanhood.

Seven elite dancers perform alongside Pagés and incorporate Bizet’s compositions and new, original music into their numbers. Co-directed by Pagés and playwright El Arbi El Harti the well structured production fuses movement, music and dialogue in a spectacular narrative.

María Pagés is completely at ease with the audience. At 55 years she’s honed her craft and is a commanding presence on stage, exemplifying how flamenco embraces the female figure at all ages, unlike ballet and other dance forms.

Raw and rhythmical, the cante flamenco of singers Ana María Ramon Munoz and Sara Garcia Romero is backed by musicians Rubén Diaz Levaniegos and Isaac Munoz Casado (guitar), David Moniz Ordonez (violin), Sergio Fernando Menem (cello) and José María Uriarte Serrano (percussion).

A pioneer of contemporary flamenco, María Pagés has toured with Antonio Gades Company, worked on Carlos Saura’s dance films and since 1990 produced a steady output of award-winning productions with her own company.

Yo Carmen is a rare opportunity for Australian audiences to experience María Pagés’ incomparable contemporary flamenco style that’s steeped in folk traditions. Vive Carmen, vive el flamenco.

Yo Carmen ran at Arts Centre Melbourne 12 & 13 March after additional performances 8 & 9 March at WOMADelaide, Adelaide.  

Dancers:  Marta Galvez Lastre, Julia Gimeno Asins, Nuria Martinez Dominguez, Eva Varela Rubio, Chatal Soler Payano, Tatiana Cuevas Calzado, Natalia Gonzalez Alcala

Photograph: David Ruano