Getting back on pointe

A beacon of modern dance in Europe for many years, Spain’s Compania Nacional de Danza is reverting to a more classical brand of ballet as it returns to perform in Tel Aviv this week.

Nacho Duato’s initiative 311 (photo credit: Fernando Marcos)
Nacho Duato’s initiative 311
(photo credit: Fernando Marcos)
The number one rule in show business is that no matter what happens backstage, in the studio or outside the theater, on stage everything is well.
Professional performers would rather dance on a broken toe than exit the stage in the middle of a number. And regardless of the politics, heartbreaks or intrigues, when the curtain goes up, the show must go on.
This week, the famed Compania Nacional de Danza, Spain will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Presenting Nacho Duato’s Multiplicity Forms of Silence and Emptiness, the company will return to Israel after a two-year absence, during which time much has changed within the infrastructure of the organization. Though the future of many of the administrators and dancers has become somewhat uncertain, their execution of Duato’s exploration of Bach’s life’s work will undoubtedly be a sight to see.
Last year, Duato informed his employers at the Spanish Ministry of Culture that he would retire as artistic director for the company, a position he had held for 20 years. In the two decades that Duato presided over the troupe, he succeeded in placing Spain on the dance map, bringing the company into the limelight with both his own choreographies and commissions by other leading artists in the field.
News of his impending departure sent shock waves throughout the dance world. Duato was going to be a tough act to follow for any newcomers.
When the ensuing havoc subsided, Duato’s longtime assistant and friend Herve Palito was chosen.
Though Palito is not a choreographer himself, his appointment to the very sought-after position seemed reasonable. He had enjoyed a long career as an extraordinary dancer, followed by years as a choreographic assistant, a job that led him in and out of studios on five continents. However, only a few months after taking up the reins at CND, he was informed that the company would be handed over to Jose Carlos Martinez in September of 2011. Palito, who has been at the helm of CND for nine months, will accompany the troupe during its upcoming tour to Israel.
THE DECISION to remove Palito in favor of Martinez was made as an attempt to set CND back on a more classical course, Palito explained in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. Although the company has presented largely modern dance for many years, its roots are deeply entrenched in classical ballet.
Martinez’s long career with the Paris Opera Ballet placed him at the crest of the ballet community.
After years of criticizing Duato for his affinity for modern and contemporary dance, it seemed the Spanish Ministry finally had enough. Martinez was offered a five-year contract, during which time he plans to see every woman in the troupe don toe shoes and a tutu.
Palito, who has endured what anyone would consider a professional rollercoaster, sounded reasonably calm, considering the circumstances.
“The Minister of Culture asked me in June, and it was quite crazy because I had to organize a whole season and a premiere during our summer holiday.
We had a premiere in November, which was quite exciting. Now we have two more premieres coming up,” he said.
This change, he explained, will significantly alter the image of CND, which has been a beacon of modern dance in Europe for many years. Thanks to Duato’s initiative, CND boasts a repertoire rife with the biggest names in the modern dance world, including Ohad Naharin, Mats Ek, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe and Wim Wandekeybus.
“It was a surprise when they decided to go back to classical ballet. That’s not something that I believe in.
There is a huge gap between pointe and floor work. I don’t think that dancers can jump from one to the other,” he said.
“I wanted to keep a contemporary identity for the company.”
At this point, the plans for CND are to maintain the current repertoire while pushing the classical agenda forward. That said, now may be an excellent time to take in a truly wonderful example of Duato’s epic choreography before too many changes set in.
Compania Nacional de Danza, Spain will perform at TAPAC from March 22-25. For tickets, visit or call (03) 692-7777.