Dublin Dance Festival 2018: Catedral
A Tale Told Full Of Sound And Fury
Those of a more quiet and retiring disposition, who like their flamenco, and perhaps women too, to be equally quiet and retiring, might want to sit out Patricia Guerrero’s thunderously powerful “Catedral.” For Guerrero has come to dance, and she is taking no prisoners. Rather, with “Catedral,” she is unleashing a fury like the hounds of hell in an attempt to pave a path towards heaven. Fast, furious, and fiercely brilliant, Guerrero’s “Catedral” journey’s through one woman’s dark night of the soul in a tale told full of sound and fury signifying all this and heaven too.
From the outset Guerrero is a woman enslaved under the pretext of freedom from sin. Trapped within the confines of an all too heavy dress, both a physical and symbolic embodiment of her role and expectations, Guerrero is barely a ghost of herself sitting, Miss Havisham like, alone in a chair in the shadows by candlelight. Suddenly, Guerrero begins to move, as if possessed. Her wrists and hands fly away from her, her feet begin to stamp though she tries stop them, her body contorting into impassioned shapes whose lush, defiant sensuality is not in keeping with the suffocating morality of the dress. Or with the regularised movements, executed like Angelus bells, of the other ladies inhabiting the cathedral, beautifully danced by Maise Márquez, Ana Agraz and Laura Santamaría. A cathedral, along with other spaces, superbly evoked by Ada Bonadie’s lighting and Manuel Madeuño’s lighting design, employing a single chandelier aided by shadows and light cast onto the ground, suggesting windows in God’s own house, or perhaps the bars of a prison cell, a Spanish courtyard, or a densely wooded forest. Agustín Diassera and Juan Raquena's powerful percussive score, beautifully rendered by Diassera and David ‘Chupete’, contrasts wonderfully with the red robed, Gregorian like chants of tenor, Diego Pérez, and counter-tenor Daniel Pérez, reinforcing the conflict between the religious dimensions in Guerrero's dark night of the soul, and her seething desires pushing up from underneath.
Yet if Guerrero is being possessed, she’s being possessed by herself, rising up from the inside, phoenix-like, feeling as afraid of freedom almost as much as she desires it. Yet she presses on, growing gradually in confidence, shedding her dress like a skin in a wonderfully clever sequence, revealing something better suited to her natural movements and energies. Shortly after, the hymnal songs for her soul give way to heartfelt songs from the soul, in an exquisite display of cante by José Ángel Carmona, accompanied by Juan Requena on guitar, rounding out the classic flamenco interplay of baile, cante, and toque. As Carmona sings, the cathedral gives way to woods, and anguish gives way to surrender. Yet Guerrero is not dancing for herself alone. The three women of the cathedral return as their fears also give way to anguish, seeking release and finding it in exquisite dance sequences full of pride and exuberance as they admire, celebrate, and support one another. Yet, the old world still awaits. But, try as you may, you cannot recage those who have tasted freedom, for cages will no longer be able to keep them contained for long.
Such is the depth of Guerrero’s vision, “Catedral” never descends into a simple tale of good and evil. It’s far more complex, dealing not in sin, but in salvation. Unmasking the unholy in what is called holy, “Catedral” seeks out what still remains scared, uniting it with the holiest of holys in each dancer's soul. Traversing this sacred and unholy universe, full of light and shadow and fragranced by incense, a redoubtable Guerrero whips, snaps, thrusts and propels as she stamps through a torrent of emotion in a staggering display of baile. A breath, a scrape, a stamp, a slide, each movement and gesture is perfectly weighted. All the while Guerrero paints the most visceral and breathtaking of images, whether during an extraordinary solo for two bodies, or a pounding dance filled with pride and exuberance. Yet Guerrero is always digging deeper, searching for a greater capacity to illuminate, and, in the end “Caterdral” delivers not simply dance as seen, spectacular and beautiful as that is. “Caterdral” is dance as felt, delivering an experience deeper than its images, pummelling you with wave after relentless wave of unbridled, primal energy on its journey from despair to exuberance, slavery to freedom.
There are artists, and performances, which you will remember, that set the benchmark for all that follow. Patricia Guerrero is one such artist and “Catedral” one such performance. A sacrament, a mystery, a benediction, a grace, “Catedral” is heaven sent. A performance that is such a pleasure to behold, it feels like a privilege.
"Catedral" by Patricia Guerrero, runs as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2018 at The Abbey Theatre until May 16