Ditch the February blues and treat yourself to a thrilling performance of some of the finest flamenco you may ever witness with a visit to see Aida Gomez and her company perform Carmen. Gomez is one of Spain’s most celebrated dancers. She was the youngest ever Director of the Spanish National Ballet and her talent and that of her company is unmistakable. Drawing upon the novel by Merimee and Bizet’s opera Gomez brilliantly distills this classic story to its very essence, creating a powerful production of unrelenting passion and intensity.

© Paco Ruiz and Pepe Claudio
© Paco Ruiz and Pepe Claudio

The physical expression of the inner world is at the core of flamenco. It is the perfect dance form for Carmen’s story and for those of us not born to the tradition of flamenco, the familiar narrative of Carmen’s story is a perfect framework for the dance. This is a match made in heaven and despite the traditional costumes the power of the universal emotions displayed on stage propels the story from the 19th century giving it a modern contemporary relevance.

Musically Gomez draws upon the reassuringly familiar pieces from Bizet’s opera score and blends them with original compositions from Jose Antonio Rodriguez. The guitar, played by Rodriguez, fits in seamlessly, less expected are the variety of ethnic percussion instruments yet these work too, complementing the rhythm of the foot stamping.

The production begins at the end, with Don Jose’s imprisonment following his murder of Carmen and concludes with the fatal stabbing. There are fine performances throughout. Christian Lozano is admirably restrained as the inexperienced lover Don Jose, quietly suggesting he is not quite a match for Carmen and Yolanda Murillo dances with confidence in the role of Manuelita as she bravely challenges Carmen to a dance off. Gomez as Carmen is undoubtedly the star of the show. Her technique is ravishing but her dancing prowess is ably matched by Eduardo Guerrero as the bullfighter Escamillo. He is the living embodiment of the flamenco spirit and it is easy to see why Carmen finds him irresistible. The production works best when it relies on the quality of the dance to tell the tale. So the addition of an expressionistic scene, where Carmen’s personal demons literally come alive, seems an unnecessary diversion in such a coherent production.

In some performances at Sadler’s Wells the dancers remain exclusively in the world they have created on stage, acknowledging the audience only after the curtain has fallen. Not so here, the Aida Gomez Company reaches out through performance to connect with us directly, demonstrating the inherent sociability of this form of dance, showing their enjoyment and increasing ours. This open, generosity of spirit is evident when they take the curtain call saying farewell by sharing with us with some virtuoso solo displays. The atmosphere is one of a party to which we are all invited and both we and the company are equally reluctant to leave. If you only do one thing this weekend make it a visit to Sadler’s Wells to see this thrilling display of talent.

*****