Carmen Romero, force vive du flamenco
Photo: Festival Flamenco de Montréal
Carmen Romero habillée en torero a offert une chorégraphie a palo seco où le rythme affolant et hypnotique des mains et des pieds seyait parfaitement à ce duel feint entre le taureau et le matador.
Chorégraphie, direction artistique et danse : Carmen Romero. Direction musicale, guitare : Benjamin Barrile. Piano : Scott Metcalfe. Chant : Silvia Temis et Fernando Gallego. Festival flamenco de Montréal, le 10 septembre. En tournée au Canada.
Des planches de bois qui tonnent la cadence, une atmosphère d’élégance et velours, du rouge et du noir. Et une interprète de talent, en pleine possession de son art. Il n’en fallait pas plus pour faire honneur au flamenco et ravir un public d’aficionados. La danseuse canadienne Carmen Romero l’a prouvé mercredi soir à la Sala Rossa avec son spectacle « and then… », une création de sa compagnie qui sera présentée dans plusieurs villes au pays (Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg) et qu’elle dit avoir faite spécialement pour Montréal et son festival de flamenco qui s’étire jusqu’à samedi.
Des chorégraphies toutes neuves, donc, aux accents ludiques et à la mise en scène théâtrale, mêlant flamenco classique et des structures moins traditionnelles, soutenues par des compositions musicales originales. Le premier tableau, aux allures de cabaret chic, dans un dialogue entre un pianiste jazz (Scott Metcalfe) et une Carmen Romero, tout en pureté et en simplicité avec sa robe noire moulante et son époustouflant jeu de castagnettes, a donné le ton à tout le spectacle. Les autres se sont succédé, baignant la salle dans une atmosphère feutrée dont on était rapidement extirpé par les patadasd’une rare vitesse exécutées par la danseuse torontoise.Alliant force et sensibilité, Carmen Romero parfois berce mais surtout réveille, tantôt vibrant de l’intérieur ou explosant littéralement comme une bombe.
Après un tientos tango bien senti chanté par le captivant Fernando Gallego au chant accompagné à la guitare par le directeur musical Benjamin Barrile, la danseuse, formée en Espagne mais aussi à Toronto par Paula Moreno, pionnière du flamenco au Canada, est revenue sur scène vêtue d’une flamboyante tenue de torero, dans une chorégraphie a palo seco(sans musique) où le rythme affolant et hypnotique des mains et des pieds seyait parfaitement à ce duel feint entre le taureau et le matador.
En deuxième partie, l’intensité a monté d’un cran, toujours dans cette même ambiance drapée de rouge et de noir, cette dernière teinte étant un symbole de force et de puissance pour cette danseuse, qui figure parmi les meilleures au pays. Après une interprétation deTake This Waltz, célèbre chanson de Leonard Cohen revisitée en espagnol par la chanteuse Silvia Temis, Carmen Romero vêtue d’une bata de cola(jupe à longue traîne) a tout donné dans « mi solea », une suite de fandango, solea et jaleo dans laquelle elle s’amuse, vit des moments plus introspectifs, exulte.
Profondément habitée, Carmen Romero, debout seule sur scène, suffit. Mais ses musiciens et chanteurs de la joyeuse troupe tissée serrée sont tout autant charismatiques. Et ils semblaient éprouver un réel plaisir à être de la partie, allant jusqu’à risquer, en rappel, quelques pas de danse à l’insistance de la flamenca qui, pour ce clin d’oeil final, s’est pour sa part adonnée au chant, autre expression de l’étendue de son talent.DANCE
The Toronto Star
Dusk Dances featured a little something for everyone — Review
The evening’s highlights at Toronto’s Withrow Park were Carmen Romero’s flamenco “May I Join You?” and Denise Fujiwara’s “Unquiet Winds.”
In terms of performance quality, the evening’s highlights May I Join You?an opening flamenco improvisation featuring the earthy, passionate Carmen Romero and jazz pianist Scott Metcalfe and Unquiet Winds, a strangely poignant duet by choreographer Denise Fujiwara featuring Brendan Wyatt and Dusk Dances artistic director Sylvie Bouchard.
Unquiet Windsis also an excerpt, from the longer Histoire d’amour, but it stands well on its own and acquires an oddly poetic quality seen outdoors in a natural setting.
As for Carmen Romero, she delivers flamenco with a raw immediacy that is far closer to the source than a lot of the theatrical Spanish dance passed off as authentic.
BEST OF 2003 THE TORONTO STAR by Susan Walker December 29th, 2003 Toronto, Canada
"Flamenco choreographer and dancer Carmen Romero showed herself worthy of her passionate namesake with The Carmen Complex."
STAGES AND PAGES GLOBE AND MAIL . COM by Paula Citron December 23rd, 2003 Toronto, Canada
The year's mixed program Ethnic dancers made further inroads into the mainstream...
"Gutsy flamenco choreographer/dancer Carmen Romero created a full-length show called Carmen Complex, which looked at various aspects of Bizet's opera heroine. Set in a theatre, Romero's Carmen was a siren-cum-entertainer whose dangerous games led to her death. An imaginative aspect was her dance encounters with different styles of lovers that included National Ballet principal dancer Ryan Boorne as a shy stagehand, Argentinean tango dancer Ruben Bustamente as Escamillo, and her nemesis Don José portrayed by Spanish flamenco dancer Domingo Ortega."
DANCE REVIEW by Paula Citron October 20th, 2003 Toronto, Canada
COMPAÑÍA CARMEN ROMERO - "CARMEN COMPLEX"
At her Premiere Dance Theatre weekend concert, fiery flamenco choreographer/dancer Carmen Romero entered the big leagues. Her show entitled "Carmen Complex" was slick, polished and engaging. Romero's premise, using a mix of live and recorded music, was to look at various aspects of the opera heroine without actually telling her life story. She also opted to have her Carmen meet different styles of men, so to speak. Her first encounter was with National Ballet principal dancer Ryan Boorne who played a shy stage hand with real charm. Carmen's Escamillo was tango dancer Ruben Bustamente, while her nemesis, Don José, was portrayed by Spanish flamenco dancer, Domingo Ortega. Each man co-choreographed their sections with Romero and it was interesting to see the collisions of styles, with the most bizarre being Boorne and Romero. The smoldering Ortega also had a long solo to show off his flashy style, while the charismatic Bustamente proved to be a deft hand with the Argentinean bolos in his fight with Don José. Romero's talented corps de ballet led by La Pamela as Micaëla, included Kátia Marisa, Leona Cortes and Luisa de Ronda, who were extremely well-disciplined. In the final analysis, Romero showed that she could create a full-length, themed flamenco story that could also be a compelling showcase for her dancers.
Guitarist Miguel de la Bastide led a crackerjack group of musicians including singers Javier Requena and Gina Tantalo, and the group got a rousing reception for their flamenco/jazz fusion. Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.
CARMEN IN TWO VISIONS THE TORONTO STAR by William Littler October 19th, 2003 Toronto, Canada
It was several generations ago that Sigmund Freud gave us the Oedipus Complex. It was as recently as Friday night, on the stage of Harbourfront Centre's Premiere Dance Theatre, that Carmen Romero gave us the Carmen Complex.
No, Romero is not a Freudian psychoanalyst, she is a Toronto-based flamenco dancer-choreographer, but she seems to understand Carmen almost as well as Freud understood Oedipus, arguing in a program note that "it is not Carmen's beauty that destroys. Men, whose passions she ignites, are destroyed by their own vulnerability. She merely seduces them down the road of lust and passion and then watches apathetically as they are slowly devoured by their own egos."
I doubt I've ever read a more insightful summary of the nature of this iconic figure, given literary birth by Prosper Mérimée, rendered famous by Georges Bizet's opera and subsequently danced by the Compañia Antonio Gades onto film through a collaboration with the director Carlos Saura.
Each of these visions of Carmen is slightly different, but like Romero's, they all recognize that Carmen herself doesn't change. It is the men who enter her life who are changed by her. In this sense, though she is ultimately stabbed to death by one of her lovers (Don José), The Tragedy Of Carmen, to borrow the title of Peter Brook's famous condensation of the opera, is really theirs more than hers.
As luck would have it, the opera has been playing opposite Carmen Complex over the weekend (remaining performances at the Toronto Centre for the Arts take place Thursday and Saturday), in a production mounted by Royal Opera Canada, the new Toronto incarnation of Opera Mississauga.
It is a thoroughly conventional production (even down to its use of the Ernest Guiraud recitatives, rather than spoken French dialogue), competently conducted by Dwight Bennett, framed by literal-minded scenery designed by Gary Eckhart, and directed without the slightest exercise of dramatic imagination by Italy's Flavio Trevisan, one of the steady stream of European nonentities brought to our shores by this company.
But it does boast a real Carmen in the person of mezzo-soprano Sylvie Brunet (who shares the role with Stefania Scolastici), vocally one of the finest Bizet singers heard locally in years. Alas, without any meaningful directorial support, and surrounded by an undistinguished cast, similarly abandoned dramatically, she sang the role much better than she acted it.
Not that Carmen Romero extended her dramatic portrayal much beyond the conventions of flamenco dancing. Carmen Complex innovatively paired her with a ballet dancer (the National Ballet's Ryan Boorne as a gently amorous stagehand), a tango dancer (Ruben Bustamante as the bullfighter Escamillo) and a fellow flamenco dancer (Spain's brilliant Domingo Ortega as Don José), but in each case the dancing was more formal than narrative.
Carmen Complex proceeded not as a dance drama so much as a series of set pieces, augmented by a few dramatic gestures but interesting primarily for kinetic qualities. Supported by dancers from her own company as well as her fellow soloists and an impressive collection of flamenco singers and musicians, Romero used the Carmen theme as the framework for what was essentially a splendid evening of dancing.
And even while operating within a restricted histrionic range, she presented a visually more credible image of the defiant, earthy, free-spirited gypsy than her vocal counterpart in North York, who seemed reluctant to produce any but beautiful sounds.
That's often the problem with operatic Carmens. It takes a Marilyn Horne or an Agnes Baltsa (or, on records, a Maria Callas) to risk beauty for character.
What was actually most interesting about Royal Opera's Carmen was its location. Opera has been a stranger in the now sadly underused big theatre (formerly known as the Apotex) at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, a venue designed primarily to house musicals, using amplified sound.
As one might have expected, the sound is a little dry, but it is clear and voices project well. Royal Opera could have done far worse in finding a Toronto home.
CARMEN COMPLEX FLAMENCO BUZZ Friday, October 17th, 2003 Boston, USA
Premiere Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre Toronto, Canada
Novel reworking of a classic theme
CAST: Carmen Romero, 'Carmen'; Domingo Ortega, 'Don Jose'; Ruben Bustamente, 'Escamillo'; Ryan Boorne, 'Stage Hand'; La Pamela 'Micaela'; Gina Tantalo, 'Fortune Teller'; Gypsy Women: Katia Marisa, Leona Cortes, Luisa De Ronda. MUSICIANS: Miguel de la Bastide, 1st Guitarist; Juan Dino Toledo, 2nd Guitarist; Javier Requena, Vocals/Percussion; Gina Tantalo, Vocals; Robert Benson, Electric Bass/Percussion; Paul Ormandy and Ray Dillard, Percussion. CHOREOGRAPHY by Carmen Romero, Domingo Ortega, Ruben Bustamante, and Ryan Boorne. ORIGINAL MUSIC composed by Miguel de la Bastide. ADDITIONAL MUSIC by Rodion Schedrin/Mikhail Pletnev-Carmen Suite
What sets this production apart from so many others which attempt such diversity is the vision of Carmen Romero, coupled with the genius of Miguel de la Bastide. Toronto residents are among North America's finest flamenco dancers and guitarists - this pair work as a flamenco 'tag-team' tirelessly to push the envelope.
A seamless, lovely, haunting and highly visual offering.
De la Bastide's latest CD 'Siento' which he brilliantly engineered as well as created over a two-year period, lends many of it's cuts to the production. What is delightful to this reviewer is how he re-captures the same level of sound quality onstage in Carmen Complex as he did in the CD. Miguel is the consummate musician's musician, and 'perfectionist' would not be an unrealistic evaluation of this young, but oh-so-accomplished guitarist. These two are distinctly separate in their talents and yet blend and merge their artistic energies together in a seamless, lovely, haunting and highly visual offering.
This is a true showcase of the artists, including the breakaway dance style of Jerez' Domingo Ortega, as well as the fabulous cante of Javier Requena and budding cantaora Gina Tantalo. Carmen Complex also serves to initiate those unfamiliar with the passion of Flamenco by introducing elements of ballet and tango to the mix.
A night of total entertainment, enchantment, intrigue, and sexy, beautiful dance.
This is easily accomplished by the addition of principal dancer Ryan Boorne of the National Ballet of Canada and Argentine tango sensation Ruben Bustamente to the cast. Each brings to the show their particular skill-set, and all I can saw is "WOW!" A night of total entertainment, enchantment, intrigue, and sexy, beautiful dance followed to the delight of an astonished audience.
So let's talk about these magical cast members.
Gina Tantalo - honey throated chanteuse, with an edgy bluesy style, had my attention immediately. An absolute angelic face, with a form so beautiful Goya most certainly would have painted her - Gina graced the production with cante jondo so stirring that the 'grito' she moaned so vehemently might well have issued forth from a wolf who's mate lay dying on a cold Canadian landscape - so profound was her grief in the telling. Went right to the core of me. And all this in one so young and still ascending to the perfection of her craft. Wait a few years from now and you won't be able to touch her - she's that good!
The combined millennia of the Iberian people in that young man's voice.
And what about Javier Requena? A Malagueño still young and puppy-faced, playful in person, but absolutely diabolical in his singing. Requena, who often accompanies Domingo Ortega is a match for any cantaor twice his age.
In fact, you can hear the depth of his experience, the combined millennia of the Iberian people in that young man's voice. He sounds at once modern and eternal - his voice resonated throughout the show. There was no one number where he didn't excel or impress.
Ryan Boorne was sweet, athletic, and innocent in his portrayal of Carmen's ardent lover, the 'stage hand'. His ballet moves complimented and set off Carmen's furious flamenco accents, coquettish swaying hips, and wild-hearted attitude. A perfect foil indeed, he carried the audience to rapture with his dance with a mannequin who sported Carmen's dress.
The wonderfully subtle machismo of an Argentine tanguero.
Ryan is a young Toronto native who climbed steadily up the ladder in his craft when in 1992 he joined The National Ballet of Canada where, to this point, he has over those years of hard work, achieved the prestigious position of Principal Dancer awarded in 2001. Lending a 'touch of grace' to the production, Ryan's beautiful choreography and gentle demeanor, coupled with undeniable manhood - bring a softness to an otherwise hard-edged content.
Ruben Bustamente finishes off this stellar array of talent with ultra-smooth tango moves, attitude, and wonderfully subtle machismo of an Argentine tanguero. The man is not only one of the finest tango dancers performing today - his mastery of the South American Indian 'Boleadoras' mesmerized the audience, leaving them gasping for breath. This lasso-style percussion instrument is performed by only a few in North America today, and if you have the opportunity to see it - I must encourage you not to miss the experience.
Masterful handling of Carmen Romero the dancer, and 'Carmen' the seductress, is classic tango posturing. Having learned tango only recently, Ms. Romero had all she could do to keep up with him, and she handled herself admirably. During the tango sequence Gina Tantalo also stepped up to the plate to sing in the style best known in the small clubs of Buenos Aires.
So accomplished and yet so unaffected, you can't help but wonder if his rhythm, grace, and fire came to him while in utero.
Now for the juicy part: Domingo! What can I say - this relatively young leonine-tressed bailaor captivated all whose gaze fell upon his strong, wide shoulders, his wonderfully poised body, his intense eyes. Domingo, who traces his roots to Jerez de la Frontera - the epicenter of Flamenco Puro, he was offered membership in the Albarizuela Ballet Company where he emerged over a two-year period as a solo artist. Since then, numerous national competition awards in Spain, and work with such outstanding notables as Carmen Cortés have led him to form his own Compañia Domingo Ortega, which has traveled and performed worldwide. So accomplished and yet so unaffected, you can't help but wonder if his rhythm, grace, and fire came to him while in utero - so ingrained into his being is flamenco. And yes, while not the tallest man in the room, he nevertheless fills the stage (or any other place he inhabits for that matter) with his 'presence'... Formidable in accomplishments and yet approachable, he is one of those rare living contradictions. And don't forget sexy - which any dancer needs to be. What a package!
From young flirtatious coquette, to sultry siren, to doomed heroine.
And then, there is Carmen... She is the embodiment of the ancient gypsy woman who not only lives but actually flourishes in the postmodern 21st century. As hip, poised and intellectual as any of her contemporaries, Carmen Romero conveys the raw and earthy moves of any Andalucian gitana - yet carries it off with delicacy and demure style. She is feminine to the core - but don't cross her. You can see it in her eyes, centuries of betrayal, loss, jealousy, grief. It's as if Carmen has been reincarnated from her forebears to play 'Carmen'.
As the tragic figure in Bizet's piece, she evokes the full spectrum of those feminine wiles so captivating to a man. She has such expression at all times in that face - never once leading the audience to wonder what is on her mind, except of course, when she's intent on the kind of mischief that leads to bloodshed.
Costume changes notwithstanding, she led the audience through a series of chameleon-like changes, from young flirtatious coquette, to sultry siren, to doomed heroine. She carries us along and at times we hate her for being a cold-hearted tramp, fear for her when she discovers the foreshadowing of destruction in the cards, and weep for her as her lover Don José sings over her stilled body, a life he had once worshipped and has now extinguished. All along the way, you as the viewer, were pulled in - voyeurs to this glimpse of Carmen's existence and ultimate fate.
A culmination of many months of effort and cooperation which inarguably succeeds.
And speaking of costumes - kudos to New Zealand designer Michelle Turpin - whose label 'Karamea' is up and coming in the field of costume design. She managed to transform Ms. Romero at every scene into someone completely different and yet at the same time believable.
As Carmen told me after the opening night performance, this was a project almost a year in the making - and all her energy was directed to bringing about it's realization. Not only the star and choreographer, Carmen was also it's conceptualizer. This was for all intents and purposes - her baby.
So in closing I want to commend all the people who made this show a reality, the excellent (and exquisitely beautiful) local dancers of Toronto and the musicians, (especially nice to see veteran flamenco fixture Robert Benson of Montreal again). Their work was a culmination of many months of effort and cooperation which inarguably succeeds.
So, Miguel, Carmen - I'd say it's time to take this 'baby' out on the road!!!
CARMEN COMPLEX STAGES AND PAGES by Keith Garebian October 17th-19th, 2003 Toronto, Canada
It’s not called Carmen Complex for nothing. It isn’t a transmutation of the Bizet opera or the Petit ballet with toe dances, fans, mantillas, mock bullfights, and gold dust on the gypsy heroine’s body. In fact, it isn’t even the whole Carmen story, but an expression of certain parts of it, especially those that demonstrate her power over men and their dominant passions. It serves to illuminate the fact that it is the men who change, not Carmen herself. Modern in its context (being set in a rehearsal hall with musicians alert to the changing temperatures and interactions of the principal dancers), it is, nevertheless, authentically drawn from established traditions of flamenco, tango, and even ballet. The hybridity makes it a complex in the sense of a composite of styles, subjects, related emotional attitudes and obsessions.
Carmen Romero, who has devoted her artistic life to flamenco, is the driving force behind the production and it is her concept that gives the piece its first inspiration. But she is marvelously fortunate to have selected collaborators so wisely and so well, beginning with Music Director and principal guitarist Miguel de la Bastide and his musicians, singers Javier Requena of Spain and Gina Tantalo who reach an acme of cante, and culminating in the colourful female ensemble set off by the sharply variegated male principals, Ryan Boorne of Canada, Ruben Bustamante of Argentina, and Domingo Ortega of Spain.
The program offers eight sections of dance in each of two acts, but the truth of the matter is that each of these parts exceeds the sum of the whole as story and as cumulative velocity. They are, in effect, sixteen separate segments joined together by Romero’s will rather than an organic design with an unbroken, natural through-line. But, oh, how fine each segment is! From the arm semaphores and contrasting personalities of Luisa de Ronda, Leona Cortes, Katia Marisa, and La Pamela to the spinning marvels and light-footed leaps and arabesques of Ryan Boorne whose classical ballet style is super-charged yet altered to seem improvisational and a complement to Carmen Romero’s charming and impassioned interpretation. The ensemble has an almost abstract beauty, and when Domingo Ortega appears as a ruggedly handsome incarnation of Don Jose, there is a super refinement and yet an ineffable explosiveness of flamenco technique. The line of his dances is assured, the subtle variety accurately calculated, superbly economical yet brilliantly spellbinding. Ortega’s muscular body does not overwhelm the delicacy, speed, and authority of his feet or of the sculpted grace and power of his arms and upper torso.
Tango-master Ruben Bustamante provides his own charismatic genius to counterbalance Ortega’s. He makes tango seem more sensuous and sensual than it has ever appeared before, more serious and substantial than the customary virtuoso's, more dangerously unpredictable and therefore more alluring. His Escamillo is not all flashing fire or rigid, staccato power. He has a gliding ease, a stunning mastery of fine, swift footwork, and the clarity of an unparalleled technician who makes choreography an interpretative portrait. One of the great climaxes in the production is his dancing duel with Ortega (“Aggression of Desire”), where he wields the boleadoras as if they were an overpowering weapon or his mesmerizing instrument of incredible grace and speed.
Carmen Complex is dark and light, somber and joyous, reflective and passionate. It demonstrates rare artistry, and though it is deficient as a narrative, it is a riveting version of the dance-sex-death triad that so charges the Carmen myth. Dance-lovers should not miss it.
SPECIAL EVENTS REVIEW VANCOUVER by June Heywood November 16th, 2002 Vancouver, Canada
"..she performs with intensity and power."
"As a choreographer, Ms Romero conveys old traditions to the modern world articulating the primal essence of flamenco. She does all this and more."
"Last Saturday's full house performance..."
"At first, her movements were slow, then, as her feet got louder and faster, she began to twirl. Her hands flew like butterflies. With a look of defiance, Ms Romero's heels and toes tapped furiously in ever-changing rhythms as plumes of dust rose from the old boards of the Vogue."
"Miguel de la Bastide is indeed an imaginative, fertile creator whose work has an exception poetic quality."
FLAMENCO OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY ARTS & CULTURE by Kendall Harris November , 2002 Vancouver, Canada
"The Candela Flamenca Dance Company wowed audience at the Vogue"
"Carmen Romero danced with intensity and originality, improvising alone and with a male partner."
"The audience was very enthusiastic, and the occasional "Olé!" could be heard from the real aficionados."
THE TEMPEST eDIONYSUS for fFIDA August 13th, 2002 Toronto, Canada
In the insert handed out for Carmen Romero's THE TEMPEST it states that this is 'a synthesis of dance forms embodied in the Spanish Dance Flamenco genre.' And that is exactly what this piece is. It is visually, stunning, impressive and entertaining. While never falling into the overly showy and night clubby style of a flamenco piece and yet retaining the integrity and the style of the genre. This is a modern dance piece innovative and brilliant. Carmen Romero elevates flamenco from folklore to art and from art to wherever she chooses. The TEMPEST is a storm, it is a metaphor for the rage and the passion of the Mediterranean. It is the sea being compared to a fiery and jealous woman. It is the danger and the lure of the Mediterranean sea and its influence on so many civilizations. This is a wonderful, modern yet historic, traditional yet innovative, beautiful yet challenging dance piece. This is the only Flamenco piece that I have seen in this festival that actually does something interesting with the dance style of flamenco. And Carmen Romero does more than just something interesting. This piece is an art form within itself and it fascinated me and entertained me immensely. This is not only a flamenco piece this is also not only a dance piece. This is a dance that would not be complete without flamenco and Spanish dance within it. This piece would need to have flamenco and Spanish dance within it in order for it to be a true artistic expression. Therefore the style becomes a necessity and the artist becomes simply a vehicle to the art. There are no Ole!s here, there is no demanding applause or over blown egos, there is only humble artists who are only arrogant in the knowledge that their vision is brilliant. And so they should! Carmen Romero is a visionary artist and her piece THE TEMPEST was a powerful, stunning and mesmerizing dance.
CARMEN ROMERO MIGUEL DE LA BASTIDE & FRIENDS FLAMENCO BUZZ April 1st, 2002 Boston, USA
L/R: Carmen Romero, Delphine Mantha and Pascale Roy
Man...I had just returned from a week in Jerez at the Flamenco Festival and I have to say this Montreal show was BETTER than 4 of the 5 presentations at the Teatro Villamarta!
Carmen Romero as always, is a breathtakingly INTENSE dancer. She commands the stage the instant she appears, and doesn't relinquish a moment of her regal style and grace until the last compas echoes it's ghost. Sangre, fuerte, duende... Just some of the emotions the audience was feeling as her totally un-choreographed pieces flowed seamlessly into the program. Her energy kept increasing, as the enthusiasm JALEOS reverberated throughout this packed house, sending Carmen and accompanying dancers Pascale Roy and Delphine Mantha closer and closer to the edge.
Accompanying the ladies Miguel De La Bastide, Canada's Premier Flamenco Guitarist dazzled with his brilliant finger-work, flawless compas, and perfectly executed communication. To listen to this genius is to take a virtual trip to Andalucia...
He was aptly assisted by friend and collegue Mario Melo on percussion, as well as Bob Benson, a 20 yr Montreal fixture in flamenco bass guitar as well as funk & world rhythm.
What was beyond even the expectation of a perfect Candela Flamenca performance, was my personal introduction to the fiery José-Luis Pérez, as both flamenco dancer extraordinaire AND cantaór "me encanta" hehehe yesss children, I am in LOVE!!!
Another genuine surprise was Gina Tantalo - a BEAUTIFUL Madonna of a singer whose voice is surpassed only by her dignity, grace, and style. The show was two abundantly filled sets, that showcased each performer's talents and had the audience absolutely foaming-at-the-mouth-CRAZED!!!
I brought friends to the show who had NEVER seen a flamenco act before - needless to say they'll be repeat customers to Place a Côte (along with me if I can scrounge the airfare)...
DRAMATIC PERFORMANCE SHARES FLAMENCO'S HERITAGE by Robert Reid Record Staff, February 10th 2001 Guelph, On., Canada
No one knows for sure where flamenco originated. Many believe Gypsies brought this dramatic form of song, music and dance from Hindustan. Nonetheless, it's agreed cante flamenco developed in Spain's Andalusia region among Gypsies who gave it existence.
Whatever its roots, by the mid-18th century flamenco was a prominent art form. And, as anyone who saw Toni Braxton's recent performance on the American Music Awards will realize, the influence of flamenco is pervasive in a variety of contemporary music forms including jazz, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban, not to mention pop.
Guelph's River Run Centre was the site of a historical tour of flamenco Thursday night when the Candela Flamenca Dance & Music Ensemble presented Flamenco de Ayer y Hoy -- loosely translated as Flamenco Yesterday, Today.
The stunning celebration of music, song and dance featured the acclaimed Toronto-based ensemble under the musical direction of renowned guitarist and composer Miguel de la Bastide and artistic director of Carmen Romero, acknowledged as one of North America's greatest flamenco choreographers and dancers.
The ensemble -- which included percussionist Mario Melo, bassist Robert Benson, flutist Michael Round and dancers Katia de la Luz, Leona Cortés, Luisa de Ronda and Pamela Briz Guijarro -- was joined by vocalist Jesus Montoya, a powerful singer dubbed "the Pavarotti of Spain" who traveled from Sevilla for the performance.
As the title suggests, the evening was divided into two parts: past and present.
The first part showcased Montoya's powerful voice and Romero's commanding dancing as the music journeyed from the mid-18th century through the 1960s,with a stopover in the 1850s.
The contrast in music, song and dance between the range of traditional styles and contemporary flamenco was both compelling and fascinating.
Whereas traditional dance styles featured energetic staccato foot work and dramatic arm and hand movement, contemporary flamenco styles featured slower, more lyrical body motion, with sinuous arm and languid hand movement.
Just as flamenco music is a prominent component of various styles of jazz and world beat, it's easy to see how flamenco dance has infiltrated ballet and modern dance. Whether old world or new, the emphasis on virtuosity, passion, depth of feeling and sensuality remains unabated.
Like many contemporary art forms, flamenco has survived in part because of its ability to evolve, to absorb other art forms as it is absorbed by other art forms.
Like much art today, whether performance, visual or literary, flamenco is not only rich in its own heritage, but is joyously pluralistic without compromising its integrity.
The proof lies in Flamenco de Ayer y Hoy.
AUDIENCE COMMENTS TO PRESENTER Via e-mail
"Carmen is unbelievable truly unbelievable!"
"that was the best show the River Run Centre has ever seen!"
"I forgot where I was, I thought I was on Broadway, it was so fabulous!"
"Miguel...Wow! That's all I can say. Wow!"
"that was by far the best show I have ever seen in my life...and I've seen a lot of shows."
FIRED UP DANCE INTERNATIONAL, FALL 1999 Vancouver, B.C., Canada
This article is an in-depth, full length feature and because of it's size, deserves a separate page.
PERFORMING ARTS DANCE REVIEW The Globe and Mail, August 21st 1999 Toronto, Canada
The fringe Festival of Independent Dance (fFIDA) is designed to give exposure to both emerging and established choreographers, and the four series that opened the second wave of programs Wednesday night at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre ran the gamut.
Series L is a strong program. Carmen Romero, the wild child of Toronto's scene, remounted her company's 1998 Luna Llena (Full Moon). Set to Miguel de la Bastide's evocative score, the piece invokes the mysterious spirits of the night, both seductive and frightening. Romero is all fire and passion, thundering out the rhythms from her heart, with her strong, compact body and untamed lion's mane of hair.
REVIEW OF FLAMENCO DE AYER Y HOY FLAMENCO BUZZ, March 13th, 1999 Boston, USA
"Saturday night, March 13th was quite memorable to this writer, as I was fortunate enough to experience the production of the Candela Flamenca Dance & Music Ensemble which presented an ambitious 11-piece production. Martinete/Siguiryas was the first of the traditional pieces, which opened with Carmen's improvisational choreography, which was some of the best I've seen. Her skill at gitano ritmo vis-à-vis the knuckle rapping on a wooden table really impressed me and was reminiscent of really old-time gitano music. That should be no surprise, as she cut her flamenco teeth over twenty-four years ago training with masters like Manolete and La Tati in Spain. In 1998 she was awarded the Emerging Artists Award for dance from the K.M. Hunter Charitable foundation - given to artists who in the developing stage of their careers have already made an impact in their field and dance in Canada.
Carmen is featured in Miguel de la Bastide's première CD El Cambio, and guitarist/composer Jesse Cook's latest CD Vertigo.
Now, more about the show. In fact, the first part of the show was dedicated to the more traditional aspect of flamenco entitled AIRE ANTIGUA: (non-performance style Flamenco) usually saved for weddings and other family rituals and gatherings among the Andalusian Calo Gitanos.
Then on to the second part, CAFÉ CANTANTE: or the flamenco style, which evolved over the last 100 years and was reserved for performing in cafes and for non-gypsies. Starting out with Sevillanas (Cante Chico) the dancers provided a light-hearted and easy rendition of a timeless folk classic. Romeras, Carmen performed in a bata de cola - handling it with grace and power, two qualities that can be at odds with each other, but were not in this instance, a Cante Intermedio/chico was very good, but the next piece, Tientos/Tangos was great! The four resident dancers performed with graceful and lamenting gestures telling the tale of four different women who's individuality take hold in their finale Tangos solos igniting Andalusian tempers. There was a real energy in that number and Almudena Garcia's voice was able to adapt to the highs and lows with ease. A native of Madrid, she was initially trained as a dancer, but her voice was recognized early on as bringing the truest flavor of cante jondo to her performing style. She has appeared all over Spain, the rest of Europe, and the Middle East.
A true fan of Compás, (as you all know from my previous reviews) I have to say, the sixth piece, Alegrías had me (as well as the rest of the audience,) tapping and clapping away. All five dancers were involved. Their expert control of the intricate rhythmic structure was impressive to say the least. And hey, that Carmen chick can dance!
Now, on to the third part which was entitled TEATRO: New pieces with a fusion of old flamenco, jazz and experimental sounds, which celebrate the diversity and range of flamenco with relation to other musical forms.
Now, let me say briefly, not having been a fan of the "non-traditional" flamenco styles in the past, I was prepared to be mildly entertained at most. What I expected and what I encountered were incredible disparate. This is the best new flamenco I've seen, with a hip, fresh energy and style, which many have failed to achieve in the past. TA KA TA (por bulerías) opened with four women dressed in simple black Bata de Colas, accompanied by African pot drum and the Barinbao. The movement was fluid yet rhythmic, remates were expressed using body gestures and no footwork. The long yet light Colas allowed the women to execute tight double pirouettes in close proximity throwing caution to the wind. This piece was the introduction to Carmen's entrance upon which she entered a down pool of light formed by the four women. Carmen's solo in Ta Ka Ta was accompanied by David Slater on Flute who played improvised lines that fuelled the fire soon to ignite. Gentle, haunting melodies that accompanied movement reminiscent of Arabic and Indian tradition all the while tempting the flamenco bulerías structure that soon broke out into thunderous, lighting speed footwork. This was inventive and imaginative without being pretentious. Arranged by Miguel de la Bastide and Mario Melo (a versatile musical journeyman who can play anything from Afro-Brazilian, Peruvian to Flamenco percussion) this piece was perhaps the very first of it's kind that I would enjoy seeing/hearing again and again!
The next piece, Candela (Fandangos de Huelva) had elements of Indian Classical and contemporary dance, with Carmen and the dancers moving within the music in beautiful symbiosis. The instrumental offering by Miguel and the musicians, Calle Torrecillo Del Leal (Rumba) presented a tight control and perfect proportion of guitar, bass, and rhythm and showcased Miguel's extensive talents as both musical director and fine Flamenco guitarist. His music is dynamic, energetic, ambitious, and beautifully arranged. A native of Trinidad, he arrived in Toronto at eighteen to continue his guitar studies with Masters both in Canada and Spain. He has performed across North America and Europe with various dance companies. A recipient of the prestigious Chalmers Award, Mr. Bastide's work can be heard around the world on six of Narada's CD compilations including Flamenco Fire and Grace, Narada World, Gypsy Passion and Gypsy Soul. Over twenty-four years of experience has culminated in his solo album entitled El Cambio.
My favorite number had to be El Cambio (Soleá por Bulerías); Carmen performed in a white and silver beaded dress that flowed effortlessly with every movement. This piece was improvised and Carmen was the conductor of the six-piece band that accompanied her every move. Miguel's intricate falsetas kept the band tight, embellishing every nuance that Carmen threw their way. It was very intimate, very intense, very flamenco. And finally, Viajeros (Tangos) with the entire cast, an energetic and beautiful culmination to the production which brought the show to a close. Ms. Romero and Mr. de la Bastide received standing ovations from an audience that knows its flamenco. Their praise is not heaped lightly on anyone..."
fFIDA, DANCE EYE MAGAZINE, August 20th, 1998 Toronto, Canada
" In Romero's Full Moon, the mutual enjoyment of dancers and musicians becomes infectious as their improvised interactions get hotter and hotter.
Romero is a fierce, passionate performer; she wrestles with her emotions so that the dance is both private and spectacularly public at the same time."
EYE ON THE ARTS The Arts Council of Buffalo and Erie County, May 2nd, 1998 Buffalo, USA
"A word must be said about this ensemble. First they brought the house down with an audience responding to them with a standing ovation, cheers and screams. The Calumet was an interesting setting for this show. It's intimate feel, low lights and close stage added to the impact of the performance. The ensemble multicultural in its make up, consisted of two percussionist, Mario Melo and Debashis Sinha, flautist David Slater, bassist Rudy Bolanos and guitarist extraordinaire Miguel de la Bastide. Their set opened with the deep smoky rumble of Nigerian Udu drums, which look remarkably like larger ceramic jug. Messers Sinha and de la Bastide are dynamite players who took the crowd to new rhythmic heights using a broad array of exotic percussive instruments.
Romero is herself a smoky rumble, a package of smoking sensuality with graceful arms, fluid hips, flashing eyes and lightening feet topped off by a bundle of brunette coils and waves. That night the ensemble presented flamenco in an accessible contemporary style. The melodies and rhythms of the Middle East, Spain, Latin America and Africa permeated the room and the audience. At finale time, Romero had the audience serving as plamists while she drove them wild with the rapid beat of her feet in time, double time and counterpoint.
...And... if you ever get the chance, see the performance of Carmen Romero and Candela Flamenca. Peace. Until the next time OLE!"
SPANISH FLAIR HIGHLIGHTS CONCERT FINALE
The Herald, April 1998 B.C., Canada
"Spanish sunshine lit up the dark Penticton Secondary School stage for a couple of hours during the last Community concert of the current season.
Carmen Romero and her company Candela Flamenca illuminated the stage in a colorful display of swirling costumes and energetic footwork.
The first number Entre Amigos showed the company in floral skirts displaying the poses we have come to expect with flamenco dancing . The mood was upbeat... I let each piece wash over me and recorded my impressions.
The sensual sound of Miguel de la Bastide's solo guitar bridged the opening and the grand entrance of Carmen Romero. She is the principal dancer and leader of the company and looked as though she really meant business in her fuchsia and purple gown.
I was fascinated by her prowess in managing her long train as she strutted and flourished unsmiling throughout the dance. Romero kicked her train out of the way with abandon. The swift movements of the heavy satin gown caused clouds of dust...
In the first act, Rumba Gitana was my favorite. It seemed less repressed in its emotion, with its exuberance, sinewy arm movements and mischievous expressions.
Singer Alfonso Mogaburo Cid evoked the East/West origins of Spain with authentic sounds. Mario Melo was fascinating to watch as he drew complex rhythms from a percussion box.
The longer second act was varied and more enjoyable. The piece Las Cubanas displayed the dancers in varied beautiful shawls.
Carmen Romero was immensely focused and rivetingly intense, especially during her solo in El Cambio. With a wide range of facial expressions she tempted and teased the musicians in sultry abandon. Yet the feeling was nonetheless a sense of control.
Dan Francisco's lighting was very effective throughout. He bathed the dancers in moonlight during the piece Moraito. They wore identical black and red costumes and were exquisite in their ensemble dancing. The number was mesmerizing.
Tension built slowly with rhythmic clapping. Each dancer displayed her unique talents in friendly rivalry. To finish they reunited in graceful unison.
The splashy finale was a great vehicle. Each dancer could enjoy her own virtuoso talents and improvise.
We learned the fundamentals of flamenco: you intone "ale" instead of "ole" as if just finishing a good meal.
Bravo to the Community Concert series for bringing them to Penticton. We were able to enjoy for a while their intriguing style of music and dance full of fire, power and tantalizing mystery."
A COLORFUL EVENING OF FLAMENCO
The Morning Star, April 3, 1998 B.C., Canada
" The stage came alive with a wealth of brilliant colors when the Candela Flamenca Dancers emerged ...
Wearing their traditional long-tailed dresses with layers of frills created a sensually playful mood in this, the final of the season... Under the direction of Carmen Romero, the dancers showed diverse styles using basic rhythms to which variants and counter-rhythms were added.
The choreography was enhanced with the use of slow and sustained arm movements with intricate hand positions and quick foot beats with precise timing.
The dancers performed to original compositions with the musicians displaying a wide range of temperament and themes.
The evening was building to an exciting conclusion when the dancers, dressed elegantly in their rich-colored gown, created vigor and passion using their own individuality to express their musical interpretations.
The performers went on to receive a standing ovation, a fitting compliment to a much-enjoyed evening."
T.O. DANCE SCENE LOOKS TO THRIVE IN ' 98 Now Magazine, Dec/Jan 1997/98 Toronto, Canada
"CARMEN ROMERO- The flamenco fireball promises to bring her art flaming into the new millennium with live music and hot ideas."
TOP DANCE ACTS TURN 1997 INTO HOOFERS' HEAVEN Now Magazine, Dec 1997 Toronto, Canada
"Toronto saw a cavalcade of cultures cross its dance stages in 97- from home and abroad- which is a testament to the community's compulsion to explore. These are a mere 10 of the most potent choreographic kicks... ... CARMEN ROMERO, du Maurier Theatre Centre, May 10 -Flamenco's power to set hearts a-pumping was put to the test by the authenticity-possessed T.O. stomper, who gave a show so exhausting that it only ran one night. Catapulting tyrannical tradition into the new millennium was her goal, and with a seven-piece band and her own wild abandon and fiery eyes, she achieved it, you bet. Big-time."
THEATRE AND DANCE ¡FLAMENCO! The Globe and Mail, May 17, 1997 Toronto, Canada
" One of Toronto's most flamboyant flamenco artist is Carmen Romero, who danced at the Du Maurier Theatre Centre last Saturday with her Candela Flamenca Dance and Music Ensemble. Her electrifying, sold-out performance was the third professional flamenco show to play Toronto in a week."