You might expect a flamenco piece called Grito (meaning shout or cry) to be full of guts, force and passion. But Antonio Canales’s work for the Ballet Nacional de España brings out opposing qualities, less associated with but no less intrinsic to flamenco: discipline, formality, containment. True, it opens with a singer giving vent to the rasping voice so typical of flamenco song, but the piece takes its cue not from the vocalist but from the silent dancers around him in a perfect arc, hands held out in a gesture of stark simplicity.
qualities less associated with but no less intrinsic to flamenco: discipline, formality, containment.
Grito unfolds in a clearly delineated sequence (male group, female group, trio, duet, ensemble), each scene in its own way exposing the bones of flamenco technique – the torque of the torso, the switch of shoulder and hip, the lines of limbs cleanly displayed, steps and poses pinned exactly to the musical rhythms. If somewhat lacking in dramatic passion or formal innovation, the stripped-down style nevertheless engenders its own pleasure and power: you register the poise and precision of these beautifully schooled dancers, and sense the inner life contained within them.
The company dancers are trained in a variety of Spanish styles: folkloric and regional dances, and the almost balletic escuela bolera as well as flamenco. Antonio Najarro’s Suite Sevilla is a showcase for their versatility, and again the dancers themselves are very watchable. But the varied material – polished displays of castanet technique, declamatory poses and neat, beaten steps, the sweep and flick of shawl and fan – is dulled by wallpaper music and riddled with choreographic cliché.
Flutes float, drums rumble, guitars strum. A woman in white wafts poetically among shadowy men. A matador-man engages in dutiful erotic combat with a she-bull woman in leotard and high heels. Drilled groups form and re-form the same patterns of circles, diagonals and lines – admittedly in a range of very fetching costumes.