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Dances at the twelfth edition of Spain's Dansa Valencia were predictable: good, bad, or boring, with some rare glimpses of greatness. Organized by this attractive city's Centro Coreografico, the festival included more than two dozen performances at Teatre Talia, Teatre Rialto, Teatre Principal, and other venues in what was then one of the winter's warmest spots in Europe.

Bigger (in size and reputation) troupes fared especially well here. Nacho Duato's Compania Nacional de Danza gave blazing interpretations of Jiri Kylian's Forgotten Land (1981), Duato's engaging but curious male trio Remanso, and his well-crafted octet Without Words both made for American Ballet Theatre in 1998. The latter seemed safe and emotionally predigested beside William Forsythe's edgy provocation, Artifact II, where the bodies--unlike Duato's corporeal taffy-pulling--seemed as taut as bowstrings.

Visual artist Paloma Navares was both inspiration and collaborator on Juan Carlos Garcia's Cuerpo de sombra y luz for his company, Lanonima Imperial. Here, casually close encounters escalated into relentlessly ecstatic elasticity. Even when out of control, the performance was impressive in scope and scale. It was also a triumph of stamina and spirit for seven dancers, one of whom--the deceptively delicate, long-limbed Laura Aris--was chosen as the festival's best performer.

Orache, by Barcelona's Mal Pelo (the name translates as "street urchin"), was an invigorating Spanish twist on Bill T. Jones's We Set Out Early ... Visibility Was Poor. Travelers shifted through various wary alliances in a space continually redefined by the set, a giant pair of convex wooden wedges equipped with pegs and bars for climbing--a kinetic road movie.

The highlight of the festival may have been flamenco artist Antonio Canales's splendidly austere, hour-long, absolutely fat-free, and virtually all-male rendering of Federico Garcia Lorca's play The House of Bernarda Alba. Canales himself essayed the title role (the matriarch, not her casa) as an iron-willed battle-ax minding her spinster-bound daughters. They were played without a trace of camp or facile erotic gender-bending by a handful of fine young dancers in long, dark skirts. Even for those unfamiliar with Lorca, the virtues of Canales's approach--abstract yet narrative, and tight as a corset--were strikingly obvious.

There was more pleasure in the evening's second half, a showcase for Canales (a first-rate, pie-faced ham) and two tremendous young artists. Pepperfooted, mop-topped flamenco hoofer Juan De Juan stirred the audience into eruptions of appreciation. With her sinuous arms, cutting wrists, and tornadolike footwork, classy, statuesque Sara Baras drew from a deeper well.

Identity was a recurring theme among a handful of soloists; some were equal parts evocative and opaque. The tragicomic, text-based Lucky was the solo standout. Banished from the world of the dead, powerfully built and Beckettian Jordi Cortes Molina cringed, contorted, stuttered, and bleated in an effort to define loneliness versus aloneness. The result was a fascinating slice of self-indulgence that never outstayed its welcome. Marian Del Valle's quiet spirals in Echo, set against back projections, only partially illuminated an inner life. Supplemented by Super-8 film, Ana Buitrago's somber self-described Solo para Mujer Deshabitada ("portrait of an uninhabited woman") switched between surges of multilevel motion and punch-drunk listlessness.

Ensemble pieces were similarly hit-or-miss. Pint-sized Sol Pico showed off a fabulously fit body and volcanic energy in E.N.D. ("Esto No Danza" or "This Does Not Dance"), her semicoherent, kitschy, camp fable about S & M-flavored love that featured a toe-shod flamenco variation on Giselle's mad scene. Accompanied by three female dancers and a jazzy live musical trio, wiry Antoni Aparisi Sevilla lent a postmodern astringency to his Gene Kelly charm in De Puertas Hacia Dentro. This was dance as a skilled, yet absolutely natural, activity flecked with risk and conscious clumsiness. The four young women of Ananda Dansa paid semi-improvised homage to Bertolt Brecht in Vivo en Tiempos Sombrios. Their wobbly, slouchy routines (think Trisha Brown trying to be Bob Fosse) only illustrated the perils of collective creation.
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Title Annotation:Review; dance festival in Spain
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Previous Article:NATIONAL VIEW.

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