Expressions Dance Company
Corner Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Season: 10-11 November
The durability of the darker shades of emotion entangled in the experience of human relationships is illustrated in Carmen Sweet. A testament to the artistic truth in Bizet’s opera Carmen, it is fascinating to see how a tale crafted in 1875 can stand to inspire art for hundreds of years thereafter. Natalie Weir has choreographed a contemporary interpretation of Bizet’s story, alongside some of his musical compositions, with stunning results.
Six main dancers take the stage, with three women embodying the role of Carmen. Each takes on a different element of Carmen’s persona, with Elise May as the more mature side, Michelle Barnett as the passionate side and Rebecca Hall as the young and flirty side. These women are exquisite technically and in the emotions they convey in their performance. At times they work as a small ensemble revealing their unity, synchronous in every movement, yet each persona comes to the fore with great might. Jack Ziesing enters as the soldier Don Jose, who tries to woo Carmen and tame her independent, fiery spirit. Don Jose is an intriguing character as the plot details his tragic downfall as he is driven to murder. Whilst Ziesing is undoubtedly a wonderful dancer, at points I wanted to see more passion in his relationship with Carmen, in order to truly believe in the circumstances that drive him to such extremes. An ensemble was featured at one point in the show alongside Benjamin Chapman as Escamillo the Matador. This group was noticeably less confident and seemingly under-rehearsed in comparison to the core dancers, however I note that they were a part of a community engagement program to involve local dancers in the performance. Throughout the show, the stage is accented with a red chaise lounge, a striking centrepiece. The dancers use this in a range of creative fashions, which help evoke the sensual mood of the piece. Lighting also augmented this effect, using an angled spotlight in the more macabre moments.
Carmen is passionate, it is seductive, and it is vengeful. Weir’s Carmen Sweet captures all of this and more in her contemporary choreography, recreating the story for modern audiences. It is sensational to witness performers with such precision and strength in their movement and yet an intense fervour that exudes from within. For the performers, this work is both physically and emotionally demanding, and the result for the audience is breathtaking.