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A Flamenco Ballet of Love, Betrayal, Passion and Revenge

'En El Abismo' Based on Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights'


Cameron Basden, Dance Writer

A recent Zoom interview conducted during a lunch break of Ballet Flamenco La Rosa's rehearsal gave a daunting and realistic perspective of the operatic magnitude undertaken to present the full=length "flamenco ballet," "En el Abismo" ("Into the Abyss").

Seated in the rehearsal studio were nine international dance artists, singers, and musicians, most of whom had recently traveled directly from Spain. Six children, because of school, would come later in the day. One of the lead characters had not yet arrived because of Covid-19 protocols for travel.

Irene La Sentío and Oscar de los Reyes from Ballet Flamenco La Rosa (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

Photographer:

Irene La Sentío and Oscar de los Reyes from Ballet Flamenco La Rosa (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

Each artist was dressed head to toe in black, this one a professional flamenco rehearsal protocol.

It is Day Three of live in-person rehearsals in preparation for the premiere of "En el Abismo" to be held at the Miami Dade College's Koubek Center on Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15.

The feat of coordinating the large group of artists, many of whom had never worked together before, was in the capable hands of Ballet Flamenco La Rosa Artistic Director and Choreographer Ilisa Rosal who has conceived and is choreographing and producing the entire production.

Rosal is no stranger to doing encompassing full lengths with an array of artists. Almost yearly since 2007, she has created flamenco ballets ranging from the Ibsen inspired "La Casa de la Muñeca" and "Directo al Corazón" to the iconic "El Conde Dracula."

In bringing groups together, Rosal says the process of finding the perfect blend of artists is different for every production.

"Not only do I look for excellent dancers," she says. "But I look for people who can also express and develop a character, and who physically work for the character."

Similar to theater, Rosal meticulously researches and develops a script. She not only includes the story, but notes the dance rhythm required in each scene and the music that will be used. The cast is then given a scene by scene breakdown to become familiar with the story, and to start developing their character within the story. Initial rehearsals are done through Zoom.

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa soloists Irene La Sentío and Oscar de los Reyes (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

Photographer:

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa soloists Irene La Sentío and Oscar de los Reyes (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

With "En el Abismo," Rosal is honoring and is inspired by what many consider the greatest gothic novel of all time, Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights."

"When I was a young adolescent, I saw the 1970 movie (directed by Robert Fuest and starring Anna Calder-Marshall and Timothy Dalton) and that's the one that inspired me," Rosal says. "I've since looked at all the other films and that's the one that still inspires me. It's very realistic, the acting is realistic. I wanted to create real characters that people can relate to – both the performers and the audience."

According to Rosal, in flamenco, every dancer has their own language. During the current rehearsals, much of the focus is on how individual characters can use their unique dance skills to bring a character to life.

Following the initial Zoom rehearsals, about three weeks prior to the performance, the artists come together for live rehearsals, and that is when the real production takes shape. Ideas change, choices are made, character relationships are formed, and all are under the watchful eye of Rosal who molds the production to her vision.

"A big part of the process now has been collaborating and exploring what works for each scene, each character and listening to all the points of view and finding what works," she says.

Flamenco dance in a narrative form is somewhat different for a number of the artists.

Marina Valiente, who plays the lead role of Catherine, did much reading and research to build her character. She says she puts herself "in the character in the moment" and she improvises, and the character arrives.

Rosal says, "Marina's character is someone who is crazed with love."

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa soloists Irene La Sentío and Oscar de los Reyes from the BFLR production (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

Photographer:

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa soloists Irene La Sentío and Oscar de los Reyes from the BFLR production (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

Javier Latorre, who plays both Hindley Earnshaw, the brother and Eduardo Earnshaw, the father is one of the most famous flamenco choreographers of Spain. He has a different way of working.

"It is not just the dance and the steps," says Latorre. "You have to use theater and meaning. I can't improvise. It has to be very clear and, in a piece like this, you are creating a role. This is very difficult — putting all of our different backgrounds together. Very difficult," he again emphasized.

For the audience who may be unfamiliar with understanding a story told through flamenco dance, there are extensive program notes that include a description of each scene. The flamenco singing, which is in Spanish, uses many dialects from Andalucia and the gypsy language of Caló, and while beautiful, it can be difficult to understand.

Some of the music is traditional flamenco that has been accommodated to work for the production, but most of the music is original. While the music must be very exact to fulfill the choreography, each performance has an element of newness, of freshness and the urgency of live theater, according to Rosal.

"I feel it's so, so clear from the movement and the emotion, the energy, and the dancers, you might not understand the details, but you know what's going on." Rosal says.

The Koubek Center is a smaller stage, but Rosal isn't concerned about fitting the large production on the stage. Her biggest concern is evoking the feeling of vastness and the endlessness of the moors. To accomplish this feeling of space, she is using projections and film.

"This is such a complex story and each character is so complex, I hope the audience feels tremendous passion and energy from the performers," Rosal says. "I hope it takes them to a place of romance in a 19th century gothic work. There is every possible emotion in the human condition in this story."

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa presents "En el Abismo" at the Miami Dade College's Koubek Center, 2705 SW 3rd St., Miami, FL 33135.

  • Saturday, May 14 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m.

Tickets:

In conjunction with the premier, master classes will be given after the performances.

For more information, visit www.balletflamencolarosa.com.

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