The Ballet Nacional de España (BNE) celebrates this year its 40th anniversary and, for the occasion, Artistic Director Antonio Najarro (an acclaimed dancer in charge of the company since 2011) has put together a programme comprising of eleven works, most of them in fragments, which give evidence of the robust legacy of the company. The four styles that form the idiosyncrasy of stylized Spanish dance (classical, bolero, flamenco and regional dances) are present in the gala, providing an excellent chance for the public to view the richness of this unique type of dance.

BNE in <i>Ritmos</i> © Jesús Vallinas
BNE in Ritmos
© Jesús Vallinas

The programme brilliantly opens with an exquisite example of bolero. Antonio Ruiz Soler’s Eritaña (1960) evokes Sevilla through a technically demanding choreography that exudes brightness and liveliness. The percussive accompaniment of the castanets (played by the dancers as they dance, as it is typical in this dance) adds playfulness to the grace in the movements. In contrast with the rhythmic exuberance of this piece, Pilar López’s Concierto de Aranjuez (1952), next in the bill, stands out for its sober, lyrical melancholy. Its style is classical Spanish dance, which becomes elegant and deeply poetic in López’s choreography.

Flamenco is the motor of José Antonio’s La Leyenda (Soleá) (2002). Danced by three male dancers, it is inspired in the forceful dancing of Carmen Amaya. Her vigorous impetuosity (unparalleled in mid-twentieth century) resonates in this condensation of impassioned potency. Finally, the fourth element in Spanish dance, the regional dances, features in Romance, by Juanjo Linares. The excerpt selected for the gala includes stylized traditional dances from the North-Western region of Galicia, performed to the live singing of much loved folk singer Eliseo Parra.

In addition to these four instances in the dancing palette of the programme, it is worth mentioning Fuentuovejuna (1994) by Antonio Gades, BNE’s first Director. Like many of the works in the company’s repertory (and in this gala), it was not created for BNE but quickly incorporated to its list of productions. Based on a Spanish literary source (Lope de Vega’s play of the same name), it tells a story of fraternity that captures the best of the Spanish character. The narrative is conveyed by Gades’ peculiar, stylized version of popular dance, which achieves an extraordinary range of expressive nuances with remarkable simplicity.

None of these works would have made such an impression in this opening night without the superb performance of BNE dancers. Francisco Velasco’s virtuosity astonished the audience in Ruiz Soler’s Zapateado de Sarasate (1946); Miriam Mendoza and Eduardo Martínez’s pristine dexterity shone in the demanding Puerta de Tierra (1960); Aloña Alonso’s elegance and quiet yet intense expressivity was responsible of the poignant effect of Aranjuez; and Sergio Bernal’s noble bearing extracted the most of the inconsequential Icaro (a solo created by Najarro for this celebration). But beyond these individua performances, the ensembles in both Ritmos (an iconic work in BNE repertory, created by Alberto Lorca in 1984) and in the closing number of Sorolla (2013) were impressive. All the performers demonstrated polished technique and well controlled expressivity, proving that they are at the top of their game. With dancers like this and a repertory that was both fresh and alive in their bodies, the future of the company looks bright. Long life to BNE!

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