María Pagés Compañía — Yo Carmen is “a universal statement of freedom and dignity from all women”

Let’s make things clear from the beginning – Yo Carmen is not another version of the renowned Bizet’s Carmen. What María Pagés Compañía brings to the stage is something way more intense and powerful. It is a universal statement of freedom and dignity from all women, expressed with the most bold and strong voice.

María Pagés, the incredible genius of modern flamenco, creates a narrative that overcomes diversities and cultural barriers, melting poetry, popular live music and dance in a passionate ode to womanhood. What emerges from this set of images is a new Carmen, a whole distinct figure, stripped out of all the stereotypes, that brings out the essence of real women.

Yo Carmen delves into the female psyche to reveal what they feel and experience, showing a range of emotions – love, insecurity, pleasure, loneliness – resulting in a powerful portrait of sensual and confident characters, free of prejudice, that reclaim their dignity.

All dancers are driven by a compelling passion that shines through every single detail – fluid arm gestures with good tension, daring and fiery eyes, and a confident voice that fills the space. The piece is cleverly-constructed, alternating punchy flamenco steps with slow modern moves, and balancing intense solos with exquisite group sequences.

María Pagés Compañía - Yo Carmen. Photo by David Ruano
María Pagés Compañía – Yo Carmen. Photo by David Ruano

Opening with a visually fantastic virtuosity of flapping fans, Bizet’s original score makes a quick appearance and it is soon dropped to make room for poems written and recited by women in different languages. A transition that sees beautiful and delicate dance phrases in symbiosis with the words.

Other scenes come in succession: the image of maternity is accompanied by a soft lullaby played with castanets; housewives in colourful aprons, waving feather dusters and brooms, execute complex footwork in wonderful unison, keeping up with the lively rhythm. Lights are deftly used to give dramatic accent to the characters and to reflect the different moods, as well as the costumes and wide skirts that add a peculiar imprint to the piece. Later, María Pagés gets to the front of the stage to declare Yo Carmen’s commitment and express clearly the intention to dignify women. It is an inspiring moment coloured with humour, but the whole thing can feel a bit redundant after a few minutes.

Towards the end, Bizet’s music is resumed for a short dressing up session in front of a mirror that sees María Pagés becoming a sort of ‘flamenco queen’. After a tremendously potent solo, María is joined by all dancers for a riveting final group dance punctuated by a continuous crescendo, reaffirming the power of women unite, because “We are all Carmen”.

Yo Carmen is a spectacular flamenco experience. All dancers, singers and musicians have a vibrant and explosive energy that infuse the air with positive feeling and hope, glorifying the beauty and singularity of all women.

Yo Carmen is part of Flamenco Festival London 2018 that takes place at the Sadler’s Wells from 14 to 25 February