As a lover of classic ballet, I’ve never been a huge fan of modern, contemporary dance. Every show I’ve seen was a little to obtuse, it didn’t really tell a story, and frankly it just never made a whole lot of sense. My opinion of modern, contemporary dance has completely changed from seeing the single-night performance of Luna Negra Dance Theater’s modern homage to the opera.
Carmen, choreographed by Luna Negra’s Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, is a powerful, graceful, sexy, and at times humorous, interpretation of Georges Bizet’s classic Carmen. Not familiar with Carmen? Carmen is a fiery story of passion and envy. Don Jose, a Spanish officer, falls for a gypsy named Carmen, a tempestuous woman. Through the four acts, Don Jose’s world crumbles around him as he spirals deeper and deeper into an obsessive love, fueled further by Carmen’s wooing suitor, Escamillo, and Don Jose’s love and envy eventually lead him to devastation and disgrace.
Luna Negra’s interpretation of Carmen was set against Bizet’s original, familiar music. The costumes and set design were extremely minimalist, leaving the eyes to feast upon the intensity of the dance; graceful lines, intimate twists and lifts, technical and mechanical arm movements, all telling the story of infatuation between Don Jose and Carmen. The entire production was beautifully cast, and the whole company deserves a standing ovation for their work and technique. Monica Cervantes as Carmen and Eduardo Zuniga as Don Jose were brilliant as the leads and Stacey’s Aung, who played Don Jose’s other love interest Michaela, had the most graceful, elegant lines of any dancer that took the stage. But Escamillo, performed by Nigel Campbell, was electrifying and enchanting, and when paired with Cervantes’ Carmen, was downright sexy. The whole cast of Luna Negra is talented beyond measure, but that is thanks to the dance theater itself. Luna Negra Dance Theater was founded in 1999 and since its inception the company celebrates the richness and diversity of Latino culture through the creation of works by contemporary Latino choreographers; and what a gem Carmen is to add to the company’s impressive offerings.
It’s a shame Carmen was only one night! Let’s hope Luna Negra’s Carmen is not too much of a tease and decides to give us another taste of this amazing show in the near future.