Tango, bolero and Amal Choucri Catta
Cairo Opera Ballet Company, artistic director Erminia Kamel, Cairo Opera Orchestra conductor Nayer Nagui, presenting "Tango Reve" and "Bolero", Cairo Opera House Main Hall, 17 and 18 October, 8 pm, with repeat performances of "Tango" on 24, 25 and 26 October, 8pm
It seems dancing has become one of Cairo Opera's main attractions -- thanks to the constant efforts of Abdel Moneim and Erminia Kamel building a rich repertoire. One of the new dances they brought on was "Tango Reve", premiered on 24 April of the current year and presented with Maurice Ravel's "Bolero". Choreographed by the French-based American Joseph Russillo, to the music of famous Astor Piazzolla, "Tango Reve" starts and ends as a dream. The show will be repeated on 24, 25 and 26 October, together with Igor Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring", likewise choreographed by Russillo, in 2006, when he first developed his relationship with the opera's ballet company. He loved the dancers' talent, their personality, and therefore decided they "needed different forms of dance, different ways of working". So he gave them "Tango". The show is brilliantly performed by around 20 dancers, among whom are impressive stars such as Sahar Helmy, who has given us some unforgettable dances: her elegance, her ease, her charm and the beauty of her movements have always attracted audiences. We also have, among the male dancers Ahmed Yeahia, Hani Hassan and Ahmed Nabil -- all extraordinary performers. In "Tango Reve" they execute mainly tango pas-de-deux with lots of body and leg work, twisting and turning, swinging and swaying to Piazzolla's fantastic rhythms.
The tango has always been popular in Egypt and elsewhere in the world: the Afro-Argentine dance had come to Europe with World War I and reached vertiginous heights with World War II. In Egypt during the Second World War, tango was considered the most romantic dance. It had, and still has, at times, a dreamlike quality, though "Tango Reve" does boast its sensuous moments. Here the dream seems to be of the flesh and not of the soul: the leg work is therefore enormously eloquent.. It is also perfectly executed: the marvellous dancers have a visible liking for what they're doing. There is, however, as much freedom of expression as there is discipline of movement in the tango, just as there is discipline and harmony in all African dances. Theirs is a natural, innate harmony, lost in tradition through the ages. Swaying in their dreams of tango, swinging tenderly, lovingly or aggressively to Piazzolla's tunes, the dancers could have gone on forever. The crowd loved them. They will be happy to see them again for three nights, together with Russillo's "Rites of Spring", especially choreographed for Cairo Opera's ballet company. It was a successful dance, though not for those members of the audience who were dreaming of springtime while watching the "Rites" take place at the end of winter: colours are still grey and costumes on the whole monochromatic, with more wool and fewer veils, while sets are reminiscent of snowy landscapes rather than daisies and daffodils. The scene evokes the sacrifice of the maiden, the "chosen one" whose death will finally dissipate the wintry cold and make spring possible. Thus the ballet is divided into two distinct parts: the adoration of the earth; and the sacrifice.
In primitive times in Russia there was real anguish among the people who thought the dark, freezing winter would never end, and Stravinsky himself said some of the harshness of the chords had come from his memory of the sound of ice crashing as the Russian winter broke up. There is no real plot in the "Rites of Spring", which is divided into several moving sequences, evoking ancient rites honouring Springtime and the earth and closing with the sacrificial dance of the maiden's death. The second part of the dance, the sacrifice, is a hymn-like rhythmic sequence, leading to the ultimate crescendo with which the chosen one finally expires. As in "Tango", movements in the "Rites" are likewise on the lascivious side. Many loved the naughty costumes, congratulating the directors for "keeping an open mind". Hopefully, this time, the "open mind" will not go too far. In the meantime, we are still applauding Nayer Nagui at the head of Cairo's Opera Orchestra, making a glorious name for himself as conductor of the symphonists and of other musical ensembles. In his quiet, unobtrusive way, he is conquering the opera's world with his vast repertoire ranging from classical to modern and light music, while masterfully conducting symphonic and lyric programmes. There is lots of colour and lots of sensitivity in his baton.
That night, at the opera's Main Hall, we were given Maurice Ravel's "Bolero", often seen, always loved, mainly with the participation of all those lovely male dancers who cannot wait to get the girl on the trestle table. Originally choreographed by Bornislava Nijinskaya, the work was composed for the dancer Ida Rubinstein in 1928 and produced at the Paris Opera in November of the same year. It was originally set in a Spanish tavern, where a beautiful gypsy girl begins to dance on a trestle table, with slow, seductive movements, while the music chimes in with a constant obsessive repetition of the theme in C-major, almost throughout, in an unvarying rhythm leading up to a gradual crescendo. While originally written for a ballerina and one partner, later transformations added a larger number of male performers. Such was Maurice Bejart's in 1961, as well as our very own Abdel Moneim Kamel's: around 34 male partners were added to the show, heightening the mystery and the suspense, while capturing the savage flavour of the work. There comes a point when the mood is laden with sensuality, as the audience watches spellbound before being swept into reality, while the star dancer on the table and all her men suddenly drop in a great fall as the curtain slowly closes. "Bolero" has always been a sensation.