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Leonor Leal as Cleopatra.

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s Cleopatra y Cesar sticks to Shaw’s basic storyline as a structure for a series of dramatic exchanges, both sensual and confrontational. Striking body poses inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics merge beautifully with classic flamenco, and notable moments from the original play, including the famous scene where Cleopatra is rolled inside a rug and smuggled out of captivity, give life and variation to the many dance sequences. Flamenco is not always a forum for subtlety, but Leal rendered Cleopatra with both fire and grace. Her elegant arm work and impassioned carriage were believably royal, and a gorgeous and extensive wardrobe emphasized her character’s stature and sensuality. Tragically, a black Egyptian-styled wig obscured the emotive expressions of her face.

Although Leal was in a league all her own, the entire ensemble, including an unusual number of talented male dancers, was strong and solid. The surprise of the night was young Gino Cosculluela’s brief appearance as Cleopatra’s brother Ptolemeo. Child performers are a rare sight in flamenco – a high level of maturity and life experience are considered indispensable for the form’s strong emotional tone. This little guy stole the spotlight with unwavering confidence and dignity as he engaged Cleopatra in a contest of posturing and temper tantrums.

Left to Right: Gabriel Arango as Cesar, José Junco as Potiano and Gino Cosculluela as Ptolomeo

Music is as much a part of flamenco tradition as movement, and the original music orchestrated for Cleopatra y Cesar by Jose Luis Rodriguez and Paco Fonta, in collaboration with Rosal and the other musicians and performers, was one of the most developed aspects of the performance. Spanish guitar and vocals were complemented by Middle Eastern vocals and the sound of an oud, effectively evoking a desert mood.

Unfortunately, the production was brought down by some unsophisticated visual elements. The costumes for the male characters were a cheap imitation of luxe, and the props, including scrappy fabric stand-ins for rugs, were distracting. The narrative was marked by projected clip-art graphics of scenery that were also far beneath the quality of the dance and musical performances. Still, Rosal is to be commended for her creative departures from the usual; Cleopatra y Cesar borrows the language of flamenco but moves away from traditional structures. The choreography was complex, offering beautiful, moving images and precise passages of footwork that were well-integrated with the live music. For flamenco fans, there was plenty to enjoy, and when the show was over, the crowd rewarded Ballet Flamenco La Rosa with enthusiastic cheers[.]

This post was contributed by Annie Hollingsworth, artburstmiami.com.

THERE’S STILL TIME TO ENJOY THE MIAMI DANCE FESTIVALby Marj O'Neill-Butler on May 03, 2011 Cordell, a new work in progressMiami Dance Festival continues all month with dance events scheduled at venues all over Miami. Here’s the schedule until May 14. For more information visit www.momentumdance.com.   May 5 at 7 PM Critics Roundtable Panel Discussion Miami Beach Botanical Garden,100 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach. Noted writer and dance historian Dr. Andrea M. Seidel (Florida International University) will moderate a panel discussion that focuses on how critics look at and write about dance, what criteria they use, what the responsibilities are when writing about dance in a young arts community, and what audience(s) they write for. Critics include: Celeste Fraser Delgado from the Knight Arts Blog, Orlando Taquechel from El Nuevo Herald, and writers from the newly launched Artburst media service. Free Admission. Immediately after the discussion Brazz Dance Theater Artistic Director Augusto Soledade, will present an informal showing of Cordell, a new work in progress. Mr. Soledade will comment on his creative process and seek feedback on the choreography to date. Free Admission. May 7, 2011 at 8 PM Dance Now! Program III: Best of Now! Decade 2 Byron Carlyle Theater, 500 71st St., Miami Beach. Dance Now! Celebrates the first year of its second decade with an evening of audience favorites from the 2010/11 season including work of renowned West Coast Choreographer Tandy Beal. Tickets: $35/$30/$15/$10 Colony Box Office: 305-674-1040 x 1. May 13, 2011 at 8 PM CORE Performance Group/Corazon Abriendo (Heart Opening) Byron Carlyle Theater, 500 71st Street, Miami Beach. Festival national guest company, Atlanta based CORE Performance Group returns to the Festival with a multi-media dance and theater work that expresses the struggles and triumphs of the Maya peoples. Corazón Abriendo (Heart Opening) is a portal that transports the audience into the vivid, lush atmosphere of the highlands and rainforests of Chiapas, Mexico through a multimedia “cloth” of dance, sculpture, video, and music skillfully woven together with the sights and sounds collected from Chiapas into this exceptional performance piece. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door/Students & Seniors $15 Groups $10. Colony Box Office: 305-674-1040 x 1. May 14 at 8 PM & May 15 at 7 PM Momentum Dance Company Spring Season 2011 Byron Carlyle Theater, 500 71st Street, Miami Beach. Miami Dance Festival’s host company offers a repertory concert that features Doris Humphrey’s historic 1928 work Water Study, considered a breakthrough work when it was created, and which still looks very contemporary 78 years later. Artistic Director Delma Iles brings back Window, inspired by paintings by Joan Miro and Cobia, returns with a new original score by Dr. Devin Marsh. Iles will also premiere a new work, Pots and Pans, about pots and pans and ingredients and appetite and hunger and wanting more than you should have. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door/Students & Seniors $15 Groups $10. Colony Box Office: 305.674.1040 x 1.