Antonio Gades Company (Spain)
Antonio Gades's stage rendition of Carmen won worldwide popularity since its premiere a quarter of a century ago, following the successful film by same name - a product of tight collaboration with brilliant director Carlos Saura.
The story unfolds at a rehearsal hall of a Spanish dance company while the director is looking to cast the right dancer for the role of Carmen. Passions and flirtations onstage reflect the ones in the story they dance; jealousy, rivalry and betrayal lead to death as reality on and offstage become inseparable.
Obviously, the stage show pivots around the right Carmen - not necessarily the most beautiful dancer, not necessarily the one with the finest physical attributes, or the youngest. But she must be a hot-blooded, experienced temptress who has a strong will, a defiant personality and is sure of her powers. And she must be utterly believable in that role, regardless of her drawbacks.
Stella Arauzo, the company's artistic director since Antonio Gades's death a few years ago, has been dancing this role for the past 21 years. By now, surrounded by a wonderful group of fresh-looking, slim and tall female dancers, she is the odd one out.
Regretfully, she is not as convincing, dramatically, as she ought to have been. True, her lover-dancer Adrian Galia - the director who plays Don Jose - is also in his late 40s. Some of this also applies to him, too. Perhaps it's time for a changing of the guard.
It is remarkable that the choreography can still work. Its inner structure is complex enough; the interaction of this large troupe of wonderful dancers with a sizable group of musicians, singers and high-spirited kibitzers is admirable.