LA ROSA DANCE THEATRE. 14th FEBRUARY 2013
Carolyn Holden is a remarkable woman. She exists in current day Cape Town, is a devoted mother to a three year old and has just submitted her master’s thesis on dance.
All of which is remarkable enough but there is more....through her together with the members of La Rosa she has the power to transport us all into a distant time and a far country.
The audience entered the theatre on the opening night of her latest production to discover on the stage a Spanish village scene created by the evocative lighting of Paul Abrams. The villagers poured in past us and seated themselves around the “tablao”—a small wooden stage. From that moment onwards the Cape Town audience could believe that they were in that village too—a situation enhanced by the vocal encouragement in Spanish by the cognoscenti amongst us. So we the audience voyeuristically watched the stage audience watching the action on the stage—this layering adding to the texture of the experience.
And action there was aplenty—the musicians, singers and dancers provided a steady flow of drama, pulsating rhythms, skilled dancing and lively acting. The hypnotic beating of both the drums and the participants’ crystal clear hand clapping got our hearts racing and carried us through the whole evening. The musicians and singers really held the show together and provided the essential ingredients that transported us to Spain. The dancers of course were magnificent in their high de gree of artistry and technical ability.
It goes without saying that the production scores 100% for skill, polish, innovative choreography, choice of costumes and entertainment value. But what elevates it to an even higher level was its genuineness—this was not a watered down commercialised version but the real McCoy. This in itself is a tribute to the history of the “tablao”. When the Americans established bases in Spain during the Second World War, Franco encouraged the creation of tablaos to market Spain which led to the exploitation of flamenco artists. Only after the demise of Franco could the flamencos rebuild the integrity of this form.
La Rosa and Carolyn herself have been ably assisted in this task by the collaboration and choreography of Eliezer Truco Pinillos “La Truca” who created ‘En El Tablao Flamenco’ for the company in 2012. Of course she could only have achieve this triumph because the skills and technique of dancers, singers and musicians have been honed to perfection by Carolyn Holden whose enormous passion, expertise, attention to detail and knowledge far belies her diminutive frame and her position on the very tip of Africa.
So in this triumph of a performance—what are the highlights?
For me, I was struck firstly by the impact of the male dancers ranging from the boys at the tables to the soloists. Apparently Carolyn is often asked: “Where did you get your men from?” She replies that she did not “get” them—they sought her out and were hungry to immerse themselves in flamenco dancing. Well that hunger was amply satisfied and the result is a team of superbly trained young men who show their joie de vivre in the setting of a village in Spain as naturally as if they were in a village in Africa. In fact this similarity could be carried over to the use of sticks—instead of the fighting sticks that would be used by Zulu youths, these guys are combating with a pair of walking sticks or bastons.
Another highlight for me was the sharp clear hand clapping from the cast who never flagged in their enthusiastic performance of this intrinsic part of flamenco. One has to wonder at the hardiness of their palms and fitness of their arms....but the most ethereal moment was the dreamlike quality of the scene when they all clapped in slow motion without making a sound—quite magical.
The moment when the castanets mimicked the cadences of a conversation was so satisfying. This is referred to as “Tanguillo” and though not purely flamenco is more of a regional folkloric fashion and was used to great effect here.
One more novel aspect was the clever device of formulating the programme into the shape of a folding up fan which was especially functional in the summer heat.
And lastly, Carolyn’s choice to have a long solo to end the performance speaks of her daring and innovative approach to her work—no cliche’s for this lady!
And so we sat in the Artscape Theatre enjoying a respite from several weeks of horrific news of the abuse and murder of women, sexual violence and the shock of the Oscar Pistorius incident. And there before us was a tantalizing vision of raw passion, sexual tension and dangerous conflict—all resolved through the medium of dance. This juxtaposition made our experience all the more poignant.
Cape Town—you have a brief chance to take this opportunity to travel to Spain without the resultant exorbitant air fares. There is one week left to experience this stunning production: Wednesday 20th to Saturday 23rd February.
Ole’ and Bravo La Rosa!
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