Lovers of dance revel in rare flamenco performances in Michael Williams’ production of Carmen at the Artscape Theatre
Carolyn Holden, one of South Africa’s most passionate and committed dance professionals, had created inspired choreography for Michael Williams’ 2005 and 2011 productions of Carmen.
Flamenco, which dates back to 1774 and is thought to derive from the Spanish word for fire or flame, enjoyed a strong presence in Cape Town thanks to La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre, founded in 1990 by the visionary Carolyn Holden. Sadly, following Carolyn’s tragic and sudden death in 2013, the flamenco company closed and the art form has largely vanished from the city.
Chorographers Beth Jeffery and Zethu Mtati, both previously La Rosa soloists, were approached to revamp Carolyn’s original choreography for the 2016 revival of Carmen. Zethu will be joined on stage by a further nine dancers, most of whom are graduates of ’s three-year vocational programme. Dancer Kathy-Lee Sass describes the experience as like being reunited with her family.
Flamenco is physically demanding and the dancers have been training since July for the three flamenco scenes in Carmen that include a castanet display and a sensual flamenco interlude. “It has been a truly special gift to be reunited with my La Rosa family in reworking Carolyn’s choreography. Zethu and I feel especially close to this piece as we were the original dancers in the 2005 version of William’s Carmen” – Beth Jeffery.
If you are unfamiliar with this dance genre, look out for lightning-fast footwork performed with absolute precision and fluid wrist circles and swirling skirts. The dancers also incorporate the use of fans, castanets and shawls in this production. Unlike other dance forms that prize youthful strength, agility and beauty, flamenco prizes duende (soul) and many dancers do not hit their peak until they are older and continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.
Michael Williams has dedicated the 2016 revival of Carmen to the memory of Carolyn Holden hosted by the Cape Town Opera.