Opening night of Costa Contemporánea

Posted: October 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Festival | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Opening night of Costa Contemporánea

Costa Contemporánea, Centro de Artes Escénicas de Nijar, Almeria, September 2

Anna Borràs in SIQ, winner of Il Certamen Mujer Contemporánea

Anna Borràs in SIQ, winner of Il Certamen Mujer Contemporánea

It is with huge thanks to my friend Agustin Ferrando Castellano, co-director and technical director of this festival, that I was able to attend.

The costa in question is the southern tip of Andalucia in Spain, a volcanic landscape with a desert climate on an exquisite coast. Costa Contemporánea is a contemporary dance festival founded and directed by Nerea Aguilar that has carved a reputation in the region over the last six years. All festival participants stay in the beautiful natural park, Cabo de Gata; morning classes are on the grounds of the camping site or on the nearby beaches while performances are in indoor or outdoor venues in local towns.

The opening of the 6th Festival of Dance and Performing Arts is a gala at the Centro de Artes Escénicas de Nijar that presents the winners of a solo female choreographic competition, II Certamen Mujer Contemporánea. It is headlined by a filmed choreography by Ana Cembrero, Lost Archive, followed by the three performances of finalists Sara Cano, Hung-Wen Chen and Anna Borràs.

Lost Archive is the seed of a longer film, or so it seems, talking about memory and how it is maintained or lost in archival forms. The film evokes memory not as a stream of consciousness but in a rational and seamless juxtaposition of images and danced movement over a haunting musical score and spoken text in English and French. Dance is a perfect metaphor for memory as it relies on that fragile retention of something inexpressible through means that are incomprehensible. Lost Archive equates the fragility of documents that can be destroyed by fire with dance that is susceptible to visual extinction.

In A Palo Seco Redux, Cano creates a path from flamenco to contemporary dance; it is soon clear that her training is in the former and that she has thought through where the influences might overlap. In three separate circles of light she creates a different fusion that is cumulative over the performance. It begins with a decidedly flamenco form in all its energetic rhythms and arched elegance and finishes in contemporary with its brash looseness and sinuous flow. In the process Cano gathers elements of contemporary technique into flamenco, fitting them together with consummate skill so that on the physical level the edges of each are softened to make the fusion seamless. In terms of expression, however, the inescapable pride of flamenco and the abstract physicality of contemporary makes the fusion less apparent, as if the glue of the work does not mix quite as it should. It is the one element that holds back Cano’s work from an expressive whole.

In Renew Chen uses costume initially to erase her features, identifying herself on the outside by her grunge but chic black clothing, sunglasses and hat. Her choice of music hints at a discordant society with which she is in sympathy but her refined sense of movement indicates a self-awareness and confidence that sets her apart; perhaps she is playing with the dual role she must experience as a Taiwanese living in Germany. It is only when a rapid transformation sees her outer disguise fall as if she is sloughing off her skin that she becomes herself. While the synthesized score resembles a swarm of bees she remains serenely unfazed, contained within a cocoon of movement whose sudden, intense changes of direction are so smooth and unctuous that we do not see how she resolves them. Her body has an ability to move at speed while a stray arm or head reads slower, occupying a space that is finely delineated whatever her surroundings. Renew is thus a process of reinventing one’s identity without discarding what is essential.

Anna Borràs is a qualitatively different performer, a passionate dreamer with gritty edges. At the beginning of SIQ she backs on to the stage holding a small sack of flour to her chest. Her spatial choreography becomes a visual pattern as she throws, sows and tosses the flour around her with the expressive force of a shaman and the fragility of a dreamer. Her body is at the centre of her magic, the eye of a storm and like Chen she moves fast in tight spirals then unwinds. The dispersed flour remains suspended in the air like a universe in which she suddenly seems small, struggling to find her place, to assert herself. She writes of wanting to show the intersection of moments of adversity in periods of deep happiness, a universal theme that reminds me of an ancient poet relating epic tales of life lived fully. Having exhausted her resources — the equivalent of finishing the tale — she simply retreats into the darkness to recover her energy. Impressive.

The judges awarded Borràs the first prize, Cano the second and Chen the third, with Cano receiving the audience prize.

The remaining performances over the next four days were in a small open-air arena in Rodalquilar. But more of those later.