DeNada Dance Theatre
Choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra
Dreamy and ethereal, Toro opens with a delicately beautiful girl lying on the Stage like the eponymous Sleeping Beauty while two brothers play Rock, Paper, Scissors. The traditional themes of fairy tales are subverted throughout this performance. The heroes and the monsters overlap, blur and change places. This opening scene is not that of a sleeping heroine about to be awoken with a kiss by a handsome Prince, but two brothers performing a perfunctory, machismo ritual to decide who gets first dibs on the young prostitute.
DeNada Dance Theatre are a young independent company who focus on exploring and subverting Hispanic and Latin culture. There is great theatricality in their work which looks and feels sumptuous and decadent. They use storytelling in dance to make bold political and social statements. In this piece they explore persecution and ostracism using fairytales focusing on themes of transformation. The lush, dreamlike imagery has elements of Angela Carter’s fairy tales, and the filmic feel of Guillamo del Toro or David Lynch. Toro includes fairy tales, circus sideshows, freak shows, animalistic orgies, vogue balls, monsters and beauties, poignant tenderness and brutal violence.
The performance has six dancers – four males and two females. Emma Walker and Marivi Da Silva are the Girl and the Bull, both performances are incredibly powerful and emotive. The scene where they unite in real tenderness and harmony is profoundly moving and deeply sensuous. The coming together of the dispossessed and “other” is truely beautiful. In this moment the Beast gets the real, red blooded woman whereas the men who are the real monsters of this piece have had nothing but a broken doll or marionette.
The four male dancers play a number of roles as the Brothers, as Matadors and as fantastical creatures – the Dragimals. In the machismo roles they are all rippling, twitching muscle and brutal intent. As the Dragimals they are all sinuous, luxuriating flesh and gleaming bodies. They are spectacular and animalistic moving harmoniously and curiously as at a great feast and celebratory orgy.
Warm, lush lighting and decadent costumes, a rich Hispanic soundtrack of pasodoble, mariachi, bull fight music and Unchained Melody to set off beautifully choreographed dance….I would watch this again in a heartbeat. Closing scenes show Jonathon Luke Baker portraying a mortally, wounded dragimal evoking Swan Lake, while the Girl is trapped struggling against the ties of patriarchal matrimony while her glorious Minotaur or She-Bull is dehorned and weakened. There is no Disney happy ending to this fairy tale yet this is still a powerful and uplifting tale of the transformative effect of love, tenderness and acceptance.