Sergio Bernal Dance Company's US Debut Greeted with Rave Reviews

Sergio Bernal Dance Company's US Debut Greeted with Rave Reviews

  • 2023-10-10

The reviews are in...
Sergio Bernal Dance Company's
sold-out performances were "greeted with a well-deserved standing ovation"!

Sergio Bernal Dance Company made their highly anticipated US Debut at New York City Center's Fall for Dance Festival Sep. 29 and 30.

Read what Critical Dance's Jerry Hochman had to say below...

Review: Fall for Dance 2023

By: Jerry Hochman

Loud, brash, and overflowing with the kind of flaming testosterone that Fall for Dance audiences relish – but with no lack of quality or visual variety. According to the program description, what makes Sergio Bernal Dance Company different from other flamenco companies is its intentional incorporation of ballet and modern dance with the flamenco base. The presentation here amply demonstrated that.

The piece’s title is the four component dances presented: Farruca, Orgia, Folia, and Solea X Bulerias. Each of these components are semi-independent dances reflecting what might be considered as the evolution of the flamenco dance form and Bernal’s expertise in classical ballet and contemporary dance, as well as flamenco. Bernal was a principal with Compañía Nacional de Danza until 2019, when he, together with Richard Cue, formed his current company.

The opening segment, Farruca, is a form of flamenco music and dance developed in the late 19th and 20th Centuries, most likely in Galicia, characterized by its music and typical flamenco mannerisms: fast turns, quick intense footwork, dominating poses, bursts of filigrana (“filigree” hand movement), and, frequently, use of a cape. The segment grabbed attention even before a step was taken. When the curtain rose, company co-Artistic Director Bernal was standing mid-stage audience-right, tall as a tree and looking like a male peacock, in a pose overflowing with self-confidence and sensual allure. To say that the audience greeted his appearance with vocal enthusiasm would be an understatement. But once he began to pound his boot-clad feet into the stage floor with typical flamenco seething bravado, passion and speed (choreographed by Antonio Ruiz Soler to the familiar “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Mauel de Falla – referencing a bullfighter’s hat) it became apparent that the quality of Bernal’s execution matched the pose, and included all of flamenco’s characteristic ingredients. The audience’s enthusiasm as his performance progressed increased exponentially from its initial enthusiasm.

Orgia (which, translated, is “orgy”), is only mildly related to the Dionysian sense of the word. Here, it’s simply a somewhat salacious dance with a narrative. Choreographed by Bernal to music by Joaquin Turina, the story involves two men and a woman (Bernal, Jose Manuel Benitez, and Miriam Mendoza), who act out a story that’s a distant relative of Carmen but with none of that story’s drama or violence. With a basic flamenco style of movement throughout, the segment opens with Bernal in some unspecified location, into which a man (Benitez) enters with a woman. Short story shorter, the woman leaves the man she came with and absconds with Bernal. After a brief pause the woman enters whatever establishment this is and runs back to man #1. Happy ending? No. Bernal enters, and faster than you can say ‘indecisive infidelity’ the woman again is enticed to abandon Benitez for Bernal. Despite its familiar theme, all three dancers delivered appropriately simmering performances laced with a dash of humor.

Folia (titled Folia of Gentlemen in the program), in its strict translation from the Spanish, means a piece of paper folded once. Here, I think, the word is used in the sense of one tradition seen in two different ways. Choreographed by Bernal and former NYCB principal Joaquin de Luz (now Artistic Director of Compañía Nacional de Danza) to uncredited music titled “Folia Espanola,” Bernal and “special guest artist” Herman Cornejo, an ABT Principal, challenge each other: Flamenco vs. Ballet, and in the context compare and contrast the two dance forms. Cornejo excelled at what he routinely does in ballet, and Bernal in Flamenco (at times dancing Flamenco-ish interpretations of ballet). It was great, albeit somewhat vacuous, fun.

Soleá X Bulerias is a flamenco dance that essentially merges two styles of flamenco and flamenco music. In an oversimplification, it combines slow and simmering with fast and feverish, escalating from the former to the latter, and ending with a blistering exposition of speed and non-directed passion. Here, choreographed by Bernal and Jose Manuel Alvarez to music by Daniel Jurado, it was performed with appropriate flair by Bernal, and was greeted with a well-deserved standing ovation at its conclusion.

The presentation was enhanced throughout by the indispensable live musical expertise of Jurado (on guitar), Javier Valdunciel (percussion), and Roberto Lorente (vocals).

Read full review here

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