Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Flamenco maestro still in command

Review: Paco Pena, Ensencias ·
Regal, October 11 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

It’s been my joy and privilege to see the giants of Spanish instrumental music, Jordi Savall and Paco Pena, in one year (and squeeze a music-rich trip to their homeland in between)!

Savall’s musical interests range across Europe and the Americas to encapsulate the Baroque, before and beyond, while Pena stays close to his native Andalucia, and flamenco.

But, like that magnetic province, flamenco absorbs so many influences  — Arabic, Jewish, gypsy and ancient Spanish folk music —that are integral to its own wide, sun-browned, olive-drenched world.

Pena has been at it a very long time (he’s been a professional musician for 65 years and an international star for 52 of them), and there isn’t a trick of the trade he hasn’t mastered.

One of them is to respect your age; so, at 77, he’s careful to surround himself with artists who can steal his show, and skilled musical colleagues that let him lay back a little.

On this tour that artist is the celebrated flamenco dancer Angel Lopez Munoz, and his compadres are the marvellous guitarists Jose Luis Fernandez Losada and Rafael Montilla Recio and the singer Rafael Planton Heredia.

The maestro steps into the spotlight throughout the show with gorgeous solos, but often provides tempo and structure for those around him. We are rewarded by exquisite playing from the other guitarists, especially Recio, who added some fine improvisation to the band’s solid core.

Pena himself insists that the song, and its singer, are at the heart of flamenco, and Heredia evokes the pain and struggle that hard times in a hard country bring. He’s not as dark or elemental as Granada’s amazing Juan Pinilla, but he fits this company like a glove.

There’s an understood vaudevillian drama to a flamenco “show” that’s the same whether it’s in the tourist traps of Cordoba (Pena’s home town) or the world’s concert halls — and it’s all about the dancer.

Imagine a building site. The musicians are the brickies, toiling to erect the building, and the dancer is the interior decorator, dropping by to admire his handiwork in his too-tight party clothes.

They plough on as he taps and flounces, spins and bows. In his early pretty turns the dancer is out of place (a little ridiculous even) as all that grunt goes on behind him. If he gestures to the players, they bury their heads in their work.

There’s only one way he can win their respect, and our admiration. He must work even harder than them. The sun must beat on his handsome head as fiercely as it does on their grizzled ones. He must sweat as much as they do.

Munoz, who is tall, dark and very handsome (and in far-too-tight clothes) plays the part to perfection, and, after interval, the stage is his.

He smoulders, his boots flash, his arms reach skywards, sweat pours from him like the spring from which the mighty Guadalquivir rises. The bull is slain, the musicians beam at their shared triumph and we are on our feet even before its all over.

And Paco Pena, who has seen it all before but is not tired, or tired of it, at all, smiles knowingly as the theatre explodes in applause.

Pictured top: Paco Pena, who has been a star for 52 of his 65 professional years.

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Male and female ballroom dancers rehearsing with reflection in mirror
Calendar, June 19, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Strictly Ballroom The Musical

15 – 22 June @ The Regal Theatre, Subiaco ·
Presented by WAAPA ·

Strictly Ballroom The Musical will quick step, cha cha and samba its way into your heart when it dances on to the stage of the Regal Theatre as WAAPA’s highly anticipated mid-year musical from June 15 to 22.

Based on Baz Luhrmann’s much-loved 1992 film that became a global sensation, Strictly Ballroom The Musical breathes gleeful new theatrical life into the tale of the maverick ballroom dancer who just wants to do his own steps and the shy young Spanish dancer he takes on as his rookie partner.

Defying both convention and their families in their quest to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship, Scott and Fran discover that to be a winner, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom. This sequined, sparkling extravaganza features larger-than-life characters, spectacular dance routines and much-loved songs from the hit film, including Time After Time, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Love is in the Air.

There are also fabulous new songs by internationally acclaimed artists such as David Foster, Sia Furler and WAAPA graduate Eddie Perfect, whose original score for the new Broadway hit musical, Beetlejuice was recently nominated for a 2019 Tony Award.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical will be performed by a huge cast of WAAPA’s 2nd and 3rd Year Music Theatre students with an orchestra of WAAPA Music students, under the direction of Crispin Taylor and music direction of David King. Making sure the show’s dance routines are sprinkled with just the right amount of ‘sparkle’ is former WA Ballet principal artist Jayne Smeulders, who now teaches at WAAPA. Returning to their alma mater for this production, thanks to the generous support of the Minderoo Foundation as part of WAAPA Visiting Artist Program, are set designer James Browne and lighting
designer Trent Suidgeest.

So strap on your dancing shoes for this iconic Aussie story about daring to dream and being true to yourself.

Tickets $76 Full / $66 Concession and Friends / Group deals available
Sat 15, Tue 18, Wed 19, Thu 20, Fri 21, Sat 22 June, 7.30pm
Matinee Sat 15 & Sat 22 June, 2.00pm
Book now via Ticketek: Tel: 1300 795 012 or online at www.ticketek.com.au

More info:
W: www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/performancesandevents/performances/2019/strictly-ballroom
E:  a.maz@ecu.edu.au

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Female dancer, dressed in black, doing a sissone
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Polished and professional

Review: WAAPA Dance, ‘Verge’ ·
Regal Theatre, 20 November ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Eighteen years ago I performed in my final season as a WAAPA dance student, and returning to the Geoff Gibbs Theatre to watch the graduating students always provokes nostalgia in me. This year, however, the feeling was diminished, owing to a last-minute change of venue due to technical issues. Despite the stress and disappointment this must have induced (the change involved the cancellation of several performances) the opening night performance of “Verge” at the Regal Theatre was polished and professional.

Opening the program was Suite Romantique, a montage of grabs from 19th century Romantic ballets La Sylphide (August Bournonville) and Giselle (Marius Petipa), Romantic-inspired ballet Les Sylphide (1909, Michel Fokine) and new work choreographed for this season by WAAPA classical dance lecturer Kim McCarthy, to original composition by Italian composer and pianist Ciro Barbato.

Neatly stitched together by McCarthy and WAAPA colleague Danielle Hunt, Suite Romantique delicately wafted the opening night audience through time,  and provided many opportunities for the students to shine. As Giselle, Katarina Gajic managed protracted promenades and arabesques with aplomb. She was partnered with assurance by Marcell Stiedl, who also impressed as La Sylphide’s James, with his lofty grande jetes . Also noteworthy were the ethereal Kirsty Clarke, and the charming Sara Ouwendyk. Glorious live music accompaniment was provided by Barbato and Gennaro Di Donna on piano, and Robyn Blann on violin.

‘Suite Romantique’: a Romantic montage. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Next stop was The Bus to Paradise, by acting Head of Dance Sue Peacock, in collaboration with 18 second year students. Having seen a number of Peacock’s works for WAAPA (and performed in one myself in 1999), I was struck anew by how cleverly she brings out the best in her students.

The dancers’ limbs often mimic the shapes above in ‘Bus to Paradise’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Exploring the question, “What is paradise?”, this contemporary work is witty and relatable. Beneath the bare branches of an inverted tree, the dancers’ limbs often mimic the shapes above. In pairs, trios, quartets or large-scale clumps they respond to sound that ranges from soothing ambient beats to sensual acoustic guitar… and it wouldn’t be a Peacock work without a microphone to amplify the voices of individual dancers as they relate anecdotes and pose questions about the concept of paradise. The movement is similarly eclectic – now hip-driven and sexy; now languid and lunging; now suspended, ready for explosion.

Beautifully lit by Jasmine Lifford (my favourite state was luminous green to represent “Tropical!”), the student cast performed The Bus to Paradise with panache and sensitivity.

After interval came Stirring Sketches of a Million Love Stories, created for 21 third year students by Portuguese guest artist Filipa Peraitnha. Unlike Peacock’s offering, individuality is subsumed by the whole in this contemporary work; any solo moments are brief and often obscured by the group.

Individuality is subsumed by the group in ‘Stirring Sketches of a Million Love Stories’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Against an ominously crackling soundscape, into which Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” intermittently breaks, dancers writhe, ripple, shake. Again, the lighting design, this time by Timothy Bonser, impresses. Now cones of light illuminate the dancers from above, and movement becomes crisp and robotic. My favourite section sees the group grooving to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3 in G. Allegro. This is a smart, sassy work that was performed with depth and precision by the third year students and, though it was hard to discern individuals for long, Alexandra Kay’s seamless solo was a standout.

“Verge” is a relatively long program and by the final work of the evening, Rafael Bonachela’s 2 in D Minor, I was weary. Kudos to the third year cast, then, for catching my attention as it began to wander bedwards.

Created in 2014 for Sydney Dance Company, and remounted here by WAAPA teacher and former SDC dancer David Mack, 2 in D Minor is a series of contemporary solos, duets and small ensemble sections that respond to music by Bach and contemporary composer Nick Wales. The choreography has been personalised for this season, and to excellent effect; all dancers gave commendable performances. Particularly noteworthy was an athletic duet by Alexander Diedler and Marcell Stiedl. In contrast Sara Ouwendyk and Makira Horner’s light-hearted partnership had a child-like sense of play. And, again, Alexandra Kay impressed with her versatile combination of fluidity and precision.

Though the programme is long, it’s worth sparing the time to see the 2018 graduates before they take off into the big wide world.

“Verge” plays The Regal until November 23. A tip: seating is unreserved. Sit in the back half of the theatre if you want to be able to see the dancers’ feet.

Pictured top is Sara Ouwendyk in ‘2 in D Minor’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Two men dancing, one is wrapped around the other, who is lunging. A girl looks on.
An athletic duet by Alexander Diedler and Marcell Stiedl, with Kirsty Clarke looking on, in ‘2 In D Minor’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.
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Perth Comedy Festival
April 18, Calendar, Comedy, Performing arts

Perth Comedy Festival 2018

23 April – 20 May @ The Regal Theatre, the State Theatre Centre of WA & the Hellenic Club of WA ∙
Presented by: Perth Comedy Festival ∙

The Perth Comedy Festival rolls into town 23 April – 20 May with shows at the Regal Theatre (Subiaco), the State Theatre Centre of WA (Northbridge) as well as the Hellenic Club of WA (Perth). The festival includes big names like Shawn Wayans (USA), Ian Bagg (CAN), Jason Byrne (IRE), Stephen K Amos (UK) alongside local funny folk Puppetry of the Penis, Matt Okine, Rhys Nicholson and Alex Williamson. To see the full lineup, head to http://www.perthcomedyfestival.com.

More info: http://www.perthcomedyfestival.com

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