Rasha al Raisi – Mi Carmen Flamenca (My Flamenco Carmen) is the best flamenco performance I’d attended so far. It was performed in Malaga’s Teatro Cervantes, that hosts all types of art shows just like Royal Opera House in Muscat. The difference though is that it’s catered to welcome all types of viewers — especially tourists like me who are not really attired for the occasion. Some people did dress up for the occasion while the rest came in looking relaxed in their jeans and shorts.
The hall was packed with tourists and Spaniards alike. The hall was designed like the opera house too, with three levels of balconies surrounding the atrium and it was full house. When raising my head to the ceiling, I saw a classic depiction of the Spanish rural life with the phrase: In honour of beautiful arts. In the background flamenco music was playing mixed with the cacophony of people trying to find their seats (the numbers were small and in dull metallic colour at the back of the seat. So, confusion was inevitable).
Opera Carmen was written by Bizet and set in southern Spain. It tells the story of Carmen, the gypsy who seduces the naïve Don Jose into leaving his childhood sweetheart and military duties. But Carmen falls in love with the matador Escamillo and ends up killed by Don Jose in a jealous rage.
Carmen was played by Malaga’s own international flamenco dancer and award winner, Ursula Moreno. Her interpretation of Carmen was flawless, with her red dress and display of emotions that ranged from taunting the innocent Don Jose to falling in love helplessly with the Escamillo. Her dance was so perfect that we heard an old lady repeating several times: “Look at that beauty!”. This of course made the audience chuckle by the third time. The only annoyance was the giant sitting behind me, who was performing flamenco too on the back of my seat.
The surprise of the show was the appearance of a young flamenco dancer who was almost ten years old. Her professional dance and confidence was a match for her elder companions. The audience cried in unison: “Olé!” by the end of her dance. The other dancer who was able to match Carmen’s performance was Don Jose. His real talents were in the solos, where he displayed artfully the change of his emotional state. His dancing steps changed from being sorrowful and defeated into being full of loath and wrath. The audience cried more than once: “Olé!” at the end of each of his solos. The last scene where he kills Carmen was the scene where all the audience gasped — although everyone either knew or expected it — but the dance was so intense that made us forget the sad ending for a minute or so.
The best part of the dance was the dance of the castañuelas (the wooden cymbals used in flamenco dances). It was performed as a duel between two groups and with such easiness that doesn’t come naturally with the castañuelas. The tourists usually buy them and pack them away after a while, as they’re hard to master.
The magic of the dance continued after the show was over, with the singing band performing an encore along with the dancers that lasted for almost ten minutes. The audience were excited and kept clapping and crying: “Olé!” as the performers did a mini dance.
With the music still playing in my head, I left the theatre feeling that I could try some flamenco dance moves. I decided against it though. After all, I’m not a fan of muscle sprains.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. firstname.lastname@example.org