Gemma Hirst

Review: Africarmen, Dance City

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As I stand at the bus stop waiting to get to Dance City in the cold, wet and snowy weather we are having in the North East lately, I only hope that choreographer Bawren Tavaziva’s African interpretation of Carmen can warm me up.

As I arrive at the performance space, I immediately feel the heat, as I notice the stage is lit up as if the sun is shining directly on it. I can hear traditional African music as if I was physically sitting in Africa.

This is rather pertinent, as that is exactly what Tavaziva’s Dance Company is trying to do.

Africarmen is telling that classic tale of the Carmen, yet set in modern day Africa where the country is full of corruption, rather than in the original 18th century Spanish.

Embarrassingly, I have not seen the original production of that opera. However, that does not stop me from understanding and enjoying the piece that I see in front of me.

The composer of the dance performance, Fayaz Virji, has done a fantastic job of setting the right tone and mood for each section of the dance.

Whether that is a piece of traditional African music, or a score that I familiarise myself with Spain and the flamenco dance style, this piece does not work well without Virji music, as it is aiding the narrative.

I appreciate how a variety of dance styles are being fused into the performance, for on paper it wouldn’t work, but seeing contemporary ballet and African dance together live looks beautiful.

The way dance is able to tell a story and articulate movement language with grace and technical precision is simply magic on the dance floor.

Lisa Rowley, playing Carmen, is doing the lead role justice and the way she is moving, telling a story through her body, is beautiful.

I enjoy the way she uses her facial expressions to add character to the tale too.

Being an African interpretation, there are many motifs that are similar to tribal movements which are very energetic.

I see this as the whole cast come together to perform routines. They look very tribal and the movements are synchronised well – the energy that is coming off the dancers is overwhelming.

This is what makes Africarmen so accessible: even if you haven’t seen Carmen, or you are not aware of the modern day issues in Africa, this interpretation speaks louder than words.

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