La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre returns to Muizenberg's Masque Theatre with Peña Flamenca, a new work that honours the authenticity of flamenco and its historic origins. The idea for the show was influenced by the context of artistic director Carolyn Holden's Master's dissertation, which centres on cultural transmission. It's a fly-on-the-wall experience of how a peña might look and feel at origin (a sought-after experience for those looking for a taste of authentic flamenco in Spain).
Dancing in a small space
Unlike the spacious stage convention of the commercial tablao, a peña facilitates equal roles for musicians, dancers and guitarists in performance around the central cante (song) and the dividing line between the audience and performers is blurred. The intimacy of the Masque Theatre accommodates the social context of the peña tradition of performers dancing in a small space as soloists (who rotate for each performance in this piece), in pairs or in groups (usually women), practising their art in a relaxed, informal context.
Flanking the ensemble, dancers including: Lisa Ventura, Luvuyo Simandla, Maria Cortes, Ndumiso Tafeni, Thandolwethu Sam, Ché Adams and Deidré Jantjies invite each other to dance by playing palmas (hand-clapping accompaniment to the song or dance) and encourage them with jaleo (spoken or shouted comments).
Strong, commanding performances
Holden facilitated the choreography of two pieces, encouraging improvisation and choreography by the dancers. Alegrías (Joy), performed by soloist Ché Adams (or Lisa Ventura), in a long, heavily frilled skirt, to Holden's choreography and Tarantos, performed by Ventura (or Maria Cortes) with Ndumiso Tafeni to choreography by Javier Cruz are two of my favourite works. Guajíras, arranged after original choreography by Carmela Greco and performed by Deidré Jantjies (or Adams), was beautifully danced too, while the male soloists impressed with strong, commanding performances.
All the company dancers have now captured the essence of Holden's own remarkable performance style and interpretation, and made it their own. The gap between the graduates of La Rosa's training programme and the company members has narrowed substantially, while third-year students Sass, Kula and Paballo Nlapo, and youth ensemble members Demi Johnson and Bianca Fernandez are progressing well.
An exemplary accompaniment
La Rosa's musical ensemble is brilliantly led by Bienyameen Camroodien, one of a handful of active flamenco guitarists in South Africa, and also features Loreán Swartz on lead vocals, a rare talent in this genre, in this country. The ensemble delivers an exemplary accompaniment, with Robert Davids on cajón and percussion, Robert Jeffery on guitar, Heather Roth on flute and saxophone, and a vocal ensemble comprising Lathiwe Kula and Kathy-Lee Sass from La Rosa's Vocational Training Programme.
It's a pleasure and a privilege to watch La Rosa perform, and I'm a huge fan of the musical ensemble. This could be their best production yet. Don't miss it!
Peña Flamenca runs until 1 September with shows Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2.30pm and 6pm and on Sunday at 3pm. Tickets cost from R55 to R65, with discounts for the Masque Theatre Club. Booking is via +27 (0)21 788 1898 during office hours, email or webtickets.co.za.
Debbie Hathway is a specialist dance writer and critic for the Cape Times and Bizcommunity's BizLounge. She's a former writer, columnist and critic for the Weekend Argus, Cape Argus and Daily News Tonight.
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