BWW Reviews: ANTIGONA by Noche Flamenca and Soledad Barrio
Our cultural climate often rewards interiorly focused anthropological dance. Styles are compartmentalized and appreciated more as a statement of research than as a contribution to the relevance of contemporary performance. Such confinements are knocked asunder by the expansive dance/drama "Antigona," as performed by Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca.
Dramatic context isn't shrugged with the Antigone tragedy merely standing as a thin excuse for dance framework. The first third of the production provides an enthusiastic entrance to the family of Antigone. Noche Flamenca employs clear characterizations and machine gun exposition, fueled with the ferocity and melancholy of flamenco dance and music to support the archaic Greek drama.
Emilio Florido serves as narrator, introducing us to the cast, which includes Antigone's mother Jocasta (Xianix Barrera,) and father/brother Oedipus (Carlos Perez Vega), her brothers, Polyneices (Pepito Jimenez) and Eteocles (Ray F Davis), and her sister Ismene (Marina Elana) and uncle, Creon (Manuel Gago).
After Oedipus' banishment from Thebes, Polyneices and Eteocles agree to share the throne. When Eteocles refuses to hand the crown to Polyneices, the two men wage war with one another. Both ultimately die, allowing Creon to take the throne. Creon decrees that Eteocles may be buried, but Polyneices will die dishonored. Antigone defies his orders and buries her brother anyway. This then brings judgment to her from Creon, who orders her to be thrown in a cave where she ultimately hangs herself.
The use of dance in this work explores the diversity of character passions. The battle between the brothers before the walls of Thebes explores dance as a mechanism for patriarchal struggle. Then, with both the conversation between Ismene and Antigone, and Antigone's final dance soliloquy, it presents dance as a form of expressionist rebellion. These aspects are combined in the mesmerizing discipline of Juan Ogalla's dancing plea for Antigone's life as her betrothed.
Soledad Barrio's performance doesn't present Antigone as a happy martyr. She presents a woman who is raped of life, and such a chasm of sorrow is etched in her form. With her arms twisting like vines, her gaze filled with determination and dread, and her percussive choreography pounding rhythms, the audience can take certainty that this outcome for Antigone contains none of the justice that Creon claims.
Accompanying this piece is an equally engaged band of musicians. Their wailing voices, delicate guitar, and variety of pace, help to fill the appropriately vaulted space of the West Park Presbyterian Church. In particular, the delicate melancholy of the guitar, as performed by Eugenio Iglesias and Salva de Maria, provides a more meditative atmosphere to a cathartic drama.
Direction from Martin Santangelo carved simplistic and articulate staging, while avoiding the tinker-toy ukelele wielding aesthetic of iconoclast adaptations. Martin Santangelo and Soledad Barrio have collaborated to create a discussion of the human experience at its most archetypal. Through their discipline in flamenco this effect was achieved.