Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Review: Flamenco star Sara Baras tells stories and casts spells with her feet at Dubai Opera

Baras offers more than the mere technical precision for which she is famed – she plays her body like an instrument, transmitting emotions, joy and heartbreak, both telling a story and casting a spell with her clacking feet and spinning limbs.
Spanish flamenco dancer Sara Baras performs during a rehearsal of "La Pepa" at the Biennial of Flamenco in the Andalusian capital of Seville. Marcelo del Pozo / Reuters
Spanish flamenco dancer Sara Baras performs during a rehearsal of "La Pepa" at the Biennial of Flamenco in the Andalusian capital of Seville. Marcelo del Pozo / Reuters

Sara Baras’s feet have been described as her not-so-secret weapon – and it’s true that the brutal, irregular stutter of machine guns is one of the first things that comes to mind when she appears, moodily lit, to assault the audience with her brazen physical virtuosity.

But later – as she performed at Dubai Opera on October 13 and 14 – there was as much sensitivity as threat found in her ferocious footwork, when the flamenco star slowed her feet to a few, lonesome clacks echoing out mournfully through the performance space.

Baras offers more than the mere technical precision for which she is famed – she plays her body like an instrument, transmitting emotions, joy and heartbreak, telling a story and casting a spell with her clacking feet and spinning limbs.

With her latest show Voces, Suite Flamenco – the 13th the Spaniard has choreographed since forming Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras in 1998, propelling her to nationwide fame at home – Baras pays tribute to her heroes of this seductive Andalusian art-form. Six looming portraits of these greats line the rear of the stage.

The evening opens to the familiar strains of late guitar great Paco de Lucia’s Cancion de Amor. Baras regally strolls into view before an exploding haze of pre-recorded beats and colours, as the five supporting members of Corps de Ballet swoop and clack onto the stage.

This distractingly abrasive use of pre-recorded music was thankfully a rarity – the dancers were soon joined by two guitarists, two percussionists and three singers who would coax such diverse and beautiful flavours of lament throughout the evening.

Much of the music was written by guitarist/musical director Keko Baldomero, and even without Baras’ dazzling choreography, watching this septet perform would have alone easily justified the ticket price.

But choreography there was aplenty, the night moving through more than a dozen themed set pieces, each with its own distinctive costumes, mixing solo showstoppers with tight group displays. Male lead José Serrano – Baras’ husband – almost earned equal billing, thrilling in the steamy duet Seguirilla, and dropping jaws in the macho solo workout Solea.

But this was Sara’s show – and it was at the times her feet abused the stage floor the most, with her trademark audiovisual tap-attacks, that the audience erupted loudest – and erupt they did.

Later, the portraits at the back of the stage were turned around to reveal mirrors, arranged in a semi-circle facing inward. The message being, perhaps, that Baras is now akin to the legends she sought to honour.

After little more than an hour, Baras began a stately series of bows that seemed to signal the end of the show, which was billed at 70 minutes only – before continuing to dance for a further 45 minutes.

It was exhausting even to watch – so heaven knows how her feet felt after launching such a flamenco offensive.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: October 15, 2016 04:00 AM

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