There has always been a high level of theatricality present in the work of Noche Flamenca, led by artistic director/choreographer Martín Santangelo and the incomparable flamenco dancer Soledad Barrio. But for the first time in the troupe’s 21 year history, it is delving into the realm of dance theater. While audiences can still expect all the things they love about the company—Spanish guitar, song and gripping dance—there is a specific story at the heart of this new production; Antigona is a flamenco version of Sophocles’ Antigone, the classic tale of a woman’s quest to obtain a proper burial for her brother, who is viewed by some as a traitor.
Although Santangelo had seen Antigone long before, it was a 2010 news story that inspired him to revisit the play. “What ignited my interest was a story about a judge in Spain named Baltasar Garzon. He was asked by many people to dig up the remains of the bodies that were [buried in mass graves] in the Spanish Civil War. Mothers, nephews, relatives—they wanted to give the remains a proper funeral. They threw him out of Spain, the hard core right wingers.” For Santangelo, Garzon’s story had an uncanny similarity to the plot of Antigone, and the concept for a dance was born.
Santangelo enlisted the help of director Lee Breuer of the ground-breaking theater troupe Mabou Mines to consult on the work. Santangelo says that Breuer encouraged the troupe to “try anything,” which proved valuable to the creative process. This was a welcome direction because “if you don’t liberate yourself,” says Santangelo, “there’s nothing you can do because you’re dealing with the tight vocabulary of flamenco and trying to tell a story with it. You have to go way out there.”
While dance theater may be new to the company, Greek tragedy fits like a glove on Barrio, whose performances are always charged with potent drama and, often, sorrow. Perhaps for Barrio, whose first name translates to “solitude” or “grief,” the part of the tragic heroine is not new at all; it’s a role she was born to play.
Written for The Joyce Theater