COMPAS DANCE company.
(photo credit: RONEN ROZENBLAT)
It took Michal Natan several months to crack the musicality and timing of the final segment of Manuel de Falla’s The Three- Cornered Hat. The 98-year-old composition by the Spanish composer jumps between many different rhythms and counts, making it one of the more intricate and challenging pieces of music to follow in the Spanish lexicon.
“The section is called jota, meaning ‘jot,’ and it is very complex, crazy even. I worked on it for a very long time, trying to understand it, to break it down and eventually to put movement to it. In the end, it is one of my favorite moments in Classico Espagnol,” says Natan, choreographer, performer and artistic director of COMPAS The Israeli Flamenco Dance Company.
This new production, an evening-length work that Natan has been busy with for the past many months, will premiere next week as part of the annual Karmiel Festival. A veteran flamenco artist, Natan chose to dedicate this performance entirely to the compositions of de Falla, a lessknown artist in the Israel flamenco community.
“Classico Espagnol is dedicated to a genre that is less known in Israel called Dansa Española. From a musical perspective, it is danced to classical Spanish music, and the technique is a combination of flamenco, ballet and Spanish folklore. It’s a complex genre and, in Israel, I think a full show hasn’t been produced of it. The show is dedicated to Manuel de Falla, and we will perform it together with The Israel Sinfonietta Be’er Sheva and conductor Doron Salomon.
There are two narrative creations in the piece – The Three-Cornered Hat and The Bewitched Love. In addition, we are presenting two dances from the opera La Vida Breve,” Natan says.
As this genre is different in musicality and physical demands from what COMPAS is used to performing, Natan set out to find dancers to bolster her cast. As it turned out, this task was quite tricky.
“I almost went to Spain to get dancers from there,” laughs Natan. “It’s very hard to find dancers here in Israel. The flamenco dancers here are often not at an international standard, which is what we are looking for with the company. For this production, I needed flamenco dancers who could do more than flamenco, who could do ballet as well, and many of the flamenco performers I met weren’t interested in broadening their style range.”
Natan reached out to several male ballet dancers, but just as she was about to close the deal, the TV program They Just Want to Dance snatched up her first choices.
“In the end, I am using three dancers. One of them is a Spanish man who has been with us for three years, and he’s incredible in this genre. And the two Israeli men are incredible in character and technical ability,” she says.
The next step was getting in sync with Doron Salomon and his musicians. Working in different cities, Natan and Salomon had to rely on taped recordings and telephone conversations for most of the process. When they meet on stage, with the 10 dancers of COMPAS and the 35 musicians of the Sinfonietta, it will be one of the first live runs of Classico Espagnol.
“We got used to playback, but live demands a very strong concentration of the dancers and the orchestra,” says Natan.
Unlike most of Natan’s productions, Classico Espagnol will have no set.
“We decided to share the stage with the orchestra, so we have to split the stage into two groups. It makes having a set nearly impossible. The original creations were premiered last century, and Picasso made the set and costumes. We aren’t going to redo his costumes, but we are going to play with the geometric game he was playing and let his work inspire us,” she says.
Although this production is very different from her previous works, Natan has found the process truly enjoyable if not a bit calming.
“There is something very clear here; there is a story and a genre, and there is movement,” she says.
‘Classico Espagnol’ will premiere on August 8 at the Karmiel Festival.
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