Víctor Ullate Ballet’s performance of El Sur is my highlight of the week for all fans of classical dance, contemporary dance, flamenco… the performing arts in general. This 90-minute piece is dedicated to the late, great flamenco singer Enrique Morente, whose songs provide the musical setting for a balletic tale of love, hate, murder and suicide in the Spanish ‘deep south’.
Though it may sound like something thrown together for the tourists, El Sur is engaging, emotive and incredibly well danced. While it is the nature of ballet that it be a bit melodramatic – it is, after all, a form of communicating purely through gesture – there’s nothing camp or showy about this production; and staged at the Poliorama, a small unpretentious theatre on the Rambles, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
The Zaragoza-born choreographer, Víctor Ullate (b.1947), was a former principal dancer with the Swiss ballet troupe, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, before being invited by the Spanish Ministry of Culture to form a national ballet company in 1979, a company that would later become the Compañia Nacional de Danza. In 1988, Ullate left to form his own private dance company, Victor Ullate Ballet, which is also based in Madrid.
Classical, neo classical, and contemporary dance and music combine in El Sur, a dance piece rooted in a peculiarly Spanish ambience and culture. Its aesthetics and costume, variety of scenes and attention to narrative clearly aim at engaging a wider audience, yet Ullate makes no concessions when it comes to the rigorous academic training of his dancers, who include Spaniards and internationals.
As fan of fusion, you can see why Ullate would wish pay homage to Morente who was as much vilified as adored for his ‘impure’ approach to flamenco. Born in Granada in 1942, Morente was a traditionally trained cantaor who took flamenco to new levels through collaborations with other musicians of a variety of styles. For his lyrics, he drew on the poetry of a range of classical and contemporary figures: the 16th century playwright Lope de Vega, Al Mutamid, the 11th century ruler of Seville, as well as the poems and stories of Federico García Lorca; and it is Lorca’s dark tales of family oppression that are most evoked here in Ullate’s El Sur, in its characters, storyline and atmosphere.
Víctor Ullate Ballet
El Sur – Homenaje a Enrique Morente
Teatre Poliorama – Barcelona, until November 2nd www.teatrepoliorama.com
THANK YOU Jesus Vallinas for the photos and Comedia Communicació.