Compania Nacional de Danza returns to Seattle

By R.M. Campbell

After two well-received visits to Meany Hall by the Compania Nacional de Danza, its third tour, which opened Thursday night, was much anticipated. With reason. The company, essentially a vehicle for the choreography of Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, is known for the vividness of its movement, willingness to be expansive and ability to have a foot in the past and one in the future. His work is known to a wide audience in Seattle for two pieces in the repertory of Pacific Northwest Ballet, including one, “Jardi Tancat,” which it took to New York.

Its Seattle appearance is at the beginning of the company’s North American tour. It includes a well-known piece, “Arenal,” from 1988,” and two North American premieres. It is a program of considerable interest. “Arenal” uses the work of the singer Maria del Mar Bonet, a native of Majorca, as its musical root. “Jardi Tancat” did as well. That alone gives dance pieces set to her music and singing a kind of expressive edge, a mournful reality. Her voice, a deep mezzo-soprano, and delivery add considerably to the music itself. “Arenal” is a study to in contrasts, between the struggles of every day life, mostly portrayed through a single woman, and moments of happiness portrayed by groups of dancers. The combination of moods and temperaments is particularly effective in conveying a range of emotions. Her singing, and songs, are riveting. So is the choreography and the dancing
Thursday night. Little wonder the work has enjoyed such a big success over the past 20 years.

Whereas “Arenal” couples opposites, “Kol Nidre” is more single-minded: It is a kind of tribute to children in war, how they scamper about war zones. Instead of setting his dance to the mournful music of Maria del Mar Bonet, Duato has taken music of John Tavener, Arvo Part and John Zorn and drafted a collage of often slow-moving music that is single-minded and poignant, an aural backdrop to the dancing. The piece is powerful, telling and volatile. “Cobalto” does not have any overall social impact. It is more an exercise in eroticism and physicality. For me it was the least effective piece of the evening — overwrought and overdone. Others have done the same sort of thing and done it better.

Performances continue through Saturday night.

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