Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
In Ballet Ireland's Carmen, the action gels not with the eponymous dancer's lusty moves, or the torrid dancing into which Carmen lures her lovers. The ballet spins into high gear when the entire cast enters flamenco territory.
In choreographer Morgann Runacre-Temple's production, the live flamenco guitar music by John Walsh and Salvador Andrades does more than prompt the dancers' sultry movements: it mirrors the ballet's history. After George Bizet wrote the score in 1875, the famous Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya wanted the operatic score to be adapted into a ballet. Since then, choreographers have been drawn to Bizet's brilliant music and how it can nearly conjure an image of provocative Carmen with the lift of a conductor's baton.
Given Ballet Ireland’s limited resources, it would have been difficult to present the entire score live, so incorporating Walsh and Andrades on stage offers a wise compromise. Their playing evokes the intimacy of an authentic Spanish flamenco tavern, and one of the strongest moments comes after Carmen and her gypsy friends leave the cigarette factory where they work, prompted by Walsh and Andrades into heel-stomping action. The dancers swirl across the floor and into off-balance lifts until the dancing and the strumming speak back and forth in ballet-flamenco at its best.
Rather than deck Carmen in a flouncy flamenco frock, designer Sarah White creates aproned peasant dresses evocative of the story's Spanish origins. Lorna White's simple sets allow the dancing to take the lead.
Runacre-Temple crafts ensemble work well, and she utilises the small cast to big effect. She still relies on her trademark moves – feet turned in to a parallel position, squiggling arm gestures, abrupt change of body positions – that reveal her tendency toward contemporary dance, but now she deftly incorporates more classical ballet.
Irish ballerina Zoe Ashe-Browne interprets Carmen with nonchalance and sexiness, offset by Dominic Harrison's interpretation of an innocent Jose, who falls prey to his own desire for Carmen. Jane Magan, as the wistful fiance Michaela, and Jade Hale-Christofi, as Escamillo, round out the strong lead cast. Touring country, balletireland.ie