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The art and act of marrying fairy tale and tragedy

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Dance
La Luna Roja
Nov. 25 and 26
Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium,
RCBC PLAZA, Corner Ayala & Buendia Aves., Makati

By Nickky Faustine P. De Guzman,
Reporter

HOW DO YOU tie together two dances — flamenco and ballet — that are totally opposite? La Luna Roja (The Red Moon) will answer this question when it goes on stage at RCBC’s Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati on Nov. 25 and 26.

The first ever full-length flamenco-ballet to be staged in the Philippines, La Luna Roja will seamlessly blend ballet and its traditional fairy story with the fierceness and fire of flamenco, which is associated with raw emotions and passion.

“Traditionally, a ballet is renowned for expressing its art form through the telling of a story. Everyone has been delighted by ballets like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle, and Sleeping Beauty. Flamenco, on the other hand, has traditionally consisted of performances without a story, just the outpouring of raw emotion. But, I asked myself, what if we channeled that vortex of raw emotion into a story? This is why La Luna Roja marries the traditional storytelling style of ballet with the captivating and powerful emotions of flamenco,” said the dance’s choreographer and creator Emma Estrada.

La Luna Roja revolves around passion, love, revenge, curse, and tragedy in a tale of a village put under the curse of the red moon, thanks to a vindictive sorceress (played by theater actress and flamenco dancer Tami Monsod). Like the spindle in Sleeping Beauty or the apple in Snow White, the red moon will provide the magic in the storytelling.

“The story starts out as a typical ballet. There is a village, a villain, a curse, and the sacrifice of star-crossed lovers. However, as a fairy tale with a distinctly flamenco flavor, La Luna Roja pushes the boundaries, exploring complex themes and bringing to light to emotions not addressed by traditional ballets,” said Ms. Estrada.

It is a dark and fiery fairy tale on unrequited love and emancipation at the cost of a true love’s sacrifice, all told through the flamenco dancers’ fiery expressions.

“In the spirit of the more traditional ballet, I wanted our first flamenco ballet to have a fairy tale feel. It would be a story that happened a long time ago in a land far away, a story filled with magic and a touch of mystery associated with flamenco,” said Ms. Estrada. “However, I felt that none of the stories used for ballet resonated with flamenco. Traditional fairy tales were very black and white. The villain was evil for no reason and the hero had no flaws. There were no innocent victims in a fairy tale. The prince always came on a white horse and everyone lived happily ever after. This was not flamenco. Flamenco was born from the gypsies that were themselves reviled as villains. And so flamenco speaks about real struggles and real suffering.”

In traditional flamenco, not everyone gets a happy ever after, and not all who are pretty are good and kind. “Flamenco should have its own fairy tale. So I created La Luna Roja, a fairy tale filled with magic but also with struggle, desire, fury, love, sacrifice and redemption,” she said of her work.

Directed by theater and film actor-director Leo Rialp, the show features guest artists from Spain, led by acclaimed flamenco dancer Javier Martos who plays the male protagonist, Jamil. The live music, meanwhile, is provided by the guest Spanish flamenco musicians Sergio Gomez (singer), Jose Cortes (percussion), and Ruben Campos (guitar).

Also in the cast is Angel Gomez, a professional flamenco dancer and teacher, together with members of the Grupo Nuevo Flamenco, composed of students of flamenco.

One of the biggest challenges in mounting the show, said Ms. Estrada, was drawing out the duende (passion) in her students.

“Filipinas by nature are gentle and sweet. I saw the fire and strength of character in each of my student, but that fire was stifled by years of proper upbringing. The greatest challenge and greatest reward for me was bringing out that fire in them, to convince them to give themselves permission to be authentic, to strip away their masks and years of upbringing, to bare their souls and celebrate their true emotions,” she said.

“The Filipinos are taught to be mahiyain (shy). We walk around with a smile on our face and never give true vent to our feelings. Flamenco provides Filipinos with freedom to be who they are and the liberty to express what they truly feel. Flamenco is the ideal outlet for emotions, grief at the loss of a loved one, frustration at work and family, unrequited love… all these can be expressed through flamenco,” she said.

The show is presented by Fundacion Centro Flamenco, which Ms. Estrada started in 2002 to celebrate the rich heritage of Spain and the Philippines, and where teachers and artists of Spanish music and dance can share and promote their culture. Through its performing arm, the Grupo Nuevo Flamenco, the group has presented and promoted flamenco here and the rest of Asia.

Ms. Estrada said she wanted Filipinos to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

At the end of the show, Ms. Estrada said she wants the audience to learn three things: that flamenco is “an enthralling art form,” it is an emotional dance, and it is something we should be happy and proud of.

“I want Filipinos to see flamenco for what it is today and shatter any pre-conceived notions [they may have] about the art form. Also, I hope that our emotions reach the audience. After all, that is the essence of flamenco, uncovering raw emotions and exhibiting it without shame to the audience. Finally, I want the audience to be proud of the Filipino,” she said.

Tickets to La Luna Roja range in price from P1,000 to P2,000 and are available through Ticketworld.

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