On Thursday night July, 14th, the Hollywood Bowl welcomed Siudy Flamenco Dance Theatre and Los Angeles based dancer Manuel Gutierrez and percussionist Diego Alvarez along with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a stellar production of El Amor Brujo.
Inspired by Flamenco pioneer Pastora Imperio, the brilliant Manuel de Falla composed El Amor Brujo which was first performed in the Teatro Lara in spain, April 15, 1915. El Amor Brujo, originally choreographed by Pastora Imperio herself, tells the story of a popular legend of a young couple that is tested through a convoluted tale of betrayal, magic, spells and deceit. Manuel de Falla was first asked to compose a few songs for Pastora Imperio, however, he was so inspired by the Flamenco cante of her mother, Rosario La Mejorana, that he instead worked furiously to create the composition for El Amor Brujo in just five months.
Although not traditional Flamenco, the musicality and rhythm of Falla’s composition was inspired by cante jondo, traditional Andalusian folk music, and other elements that make Flamenco what it is. Still wildly popular, El Amor Brujo is performed by orchestras and Flamenco dancers around the world. On this lovely warm summer night in Los Angeles, against the backdrop of sunkissed mountains, under the arch of the Hollywood Bowl, the legend of El Amor Brujo was yet again brought to life.
Dancers from Siudy Flamenco Dance Theatre did not cease to enliven their audience with brilliant costumes adorned with sparkling rhinestones that even covered the heels on their shoes. In their first act, the Siudy dancers entered the stage in an all black glittering ensemble reminiscent of an early Madonna music video, which only added to their dark, fierce, and feminine stage presence. For a theatre as large as that of the Hollywood Bowl, precision and unision are key; two elements that were clear strengths in the choreography of the Siudy dancers. When the dancers move as an ensemble, their unison added to the cutting choreography that brought to life the overall feeling of suspense and danger in El Amor Brujo.
Siudy Garrido, the artistic director and choreographer for Siudy Flamenco Dance Theatre, was generous with her use of dramatic effect throughout the piece which added to the operatic nature of the ballet. Even without the video projection provided by the Hollywood Bowl, her theatrical expressions and movement carried the message and feeling of the ballet and her role as Candela to the audience. In a solo she performed in a red dress, her movement was particularly striking. Garrido has a lot of flexibility in her upper body which made her movement seem like an effortless extension of the music. She created a vivid image when towards the end of her solo she is kneeling, with her heart close to the ground and on either side of her, blonde hair covering her shoulders, her arms are extended and moving in waves to the mysterious melodies from the orchestra.
Manuel Gutierrez who played the role of Carmelo, offered an honest and profound performance that permeated throughout the audience. Whether dancing in tablao or in a large stage setting, Manuel never ceases to give everything he has to offer in a performance and his generosity with his audience does not go unnoticed. There was a particularly striking moment when Gutierrez performed his solo while holding a heavy white and sparkling rosary. Emblematic of faith, higher power, purity, and the many things a rosary represents, Gutierrez danced with the rosary in ways that demonstrated the complex relationships many have with these concepts. Although El Amor Brujo is a story many Flamenco dancers are familiar, it is clear that Gutierrez connected to his role with honesty and proximity which lent itself to a vulnerable performance that allowed the audience to experience the complex emotions of El Amor Brujo in real time.
Whether live or online, watching El Amor Brujo has become a ritual for those who practice, study, and love Flamenco. After years of playing clips of Carlos Saura’s movie version of El Amor Brujo, it was a magical experience to hear a live orchestra play the archetypal songs that weave together Manuel de Falla’s masterpiece. In Flamenco performance it is rare to see more than five musicians, so it is exhilarating to hear an entire orchestra playing music that is Flamenco in origin. Although surely most of the musicians in the LA philharmonic are classically trained, their performance felt Flamenco in the expressions on their faces when playing and their dedication throughout the performance.
El Amor Brujo is a rare opportunity for Flamenco dancers and an orchestra to come together and it was every bit appreciated by the audience. The Philharmonic captured the details of Falla’s composition so well that the music was effortlessly carried through the bodies of the dancers. A huge Olé to the LA philharmonic, the Siudy Flamenco Dance Theatre, Manuel Gutierrez, Diego Alvarez, and all those involved in the production of the night of Falla Y Flamenco put on by the Hollywood Bowl.
To catch a glimpse of Cristina Hoyos and Antonio Gades dancing in Carlos Saura’s movie version of El Amor Brujo go here. Although the Carlos Saura’s movie version of El Amor Brujo is undoubtedly a masterpiece, I highly recommend seeing this ballet live if one ever has the opportunity.
Written by Corrina Roche for LA Dance Chronicle, July 15, 2019
To learn more about the Siudy Flamenco Dance Theatre, click here.
To see who is performing at the Hollywood Bowl, click here.