Bold and self-confident, two dancers enter the stage. Ravel’s Boléro begins. As the music evolves, so does their relationship. At first, their moves are fluent and rapturous. There is a love story going on. But it gets tougher. They start pushing themselves to the extreme, with a lot of energetic flow, frequent rotation, and repetition, turning themselves into a dancing Perpetuum mobile. They get angry, confused, sad. And then exhausted, stressed out, tired. The smooth transition from the soft body moves to the vigorous burnout unfolds in front of our eyes. Over and over again. Coinciding with Ravel’s instruction to finish Boléro’s interpretation as loudly as possible, this choreographic poem leads dancers to the overwhelm. They want to quit, but there is no giving up. If one lags, the other one lifts the enthusiasm up. They seem unbeatable together. And yet so fragile. Constant movement is what is keeping them on track. Can they go beyond their limitations? Could we all surpass ourselves?
performed by Jesús Rubio Gamo
A man and a woman, their backs to the audience, undulate their torsos and arms gently, in silence. Then, the slow, sinuous rhythms of Ravel’s “Bolero” begin, and Clara Pampyn and Alberto Alonso, still facing upstage, begin to move with faster, matched-to-the-note, urgency, occasionally desynchronizing in a counterpoint of rhythmic complexity. It’s a strong beginning by the Spanish choreographer Jesús Rubio Gamo, whose “Bolero” offers casual, ordinary-looking movement (relaxed limbs, repetitive aerobic-class kicks, arms held high like folk-dancers), juxtaposed against rigorous timing, exhausted stoppages and ice-skater swirls to the floor, (Perhaps a nod to Torvill and Dean’s 1984 “Bolero” Olympic routine.) As Ravel’s melody gets orchestrally denser, and the rhythmic intensity mounts, the pair come to an abrupt halt before propelling themselves into a series of frantic runs, jumps, catches and falls. Mr. Gamo suggests a sexual and emotional power struggle; perhaps one of gender too. But what at first feel surprising and dramatic loses power as the sequence is repeated over and over again. The music builds to its inevitable climax; by its counter-intuitively quiet end, the dance seems to have faded away.
In Bolero, Spanish choreographer Jesús Rubio Gamo reinvents the bolero to Ravel’s instantly recognisable short composition of the same name. Dancers Clara Pampyn and Alberto Alonso begin joyously: arms flailing and buttocks swaying as though in a spacious nightclub that plays the rhythms of this historic form. An ecstatic folk dance for the struggles of millennial life. Liberated, lusty, and like deep in a rave the sweat pours.
Late night: both dancers tire and the movement degrades. Exhaustion kicks in, the joy fades and together they struggle but never give up. The female falls and is propped up repeatedly - the male remains composed. The couple’s moment of synchronicity is past, though they keep on dancing the well-trodden routine they know but can no longer complete.
Rubio Gamo’s piece subverts the bolero form, creating something youthful and relatable, but it still perpetuates a tradition that sees women as weaker than men.