Dance

Peter London to premiere his different and distinct ‘Carmen’ at Sanctuary of the Arts

Written By Orlando Taquechel
June 18, 2024 at 9:24 PM

The dancers of Peter London Global Dance Company in “Caribbean Suite,” choreography by Peter London that closes the program “Rebellion & Resilience” to be presented on Sunday, June 23, at the Sanctuary of the Arts in Coral Gables. (Photo by Gregory Reed, courtesy of PLGDC).

Peter London’s latest offering, a powerful and inspiring “Rebellion & Resilience,” features a world premiere of the choreographer’s “Carmen,” a work with a woman’s name for three dancers inspired by the erotic myth of the beautiful and provocative gypsy cigar maker.

The Peter London Global Dance Company (PLGDC) will perform “Rebellion & Resilience” at 4 p.m., Sunday, June 23, at the Sanctuary of the Arts in Coral Gables.

Carmen’s story originates in the short novel by Prosper Mérimeé that bears her name, written in 1845 and published in 1847. According to its author, it is based on a real-life anecdote about “a bully from Malaga who had killed his beloved.” Mérimeé moves the action to Seville and makes his protagonist a gypsy.

Performers in Peter London’s “Carmen,” from left, Carlos Realegeno, Yanil Pabón, and Camilo Toro. (Photo by Clinton Harris, courtesy of PLGDC)

The eponymous opera by Georges Bizet premiered in March 1875.

London now joins the long list of choreographers who have created works based on “Carmen,” including Roland Petit (in 1949), Alberto Alonso (1967), Antonio Gades (1983), and Mats Ek (1992), to name just a few of the most iconic stagings.

Many think the first dance work inspired by Carmen (the character) came after Bizet’s opera. Still, the truth is that the famous French dancer and choreographer Marius Petipa (long before his period in Russia collaborating with Tchaikovsky on “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker” and “The Sleeping Beauty”) has to his credit a ballet entitled “Carmen and the Bullfighter.”

The work was conceived at the same time he was a premier danseur at the Teatro Real in Madrid (Spain) and even before the official publication of the novel. Perhaps Petipa and Mérimée shared ideas. Petipa left Spain in 1846.

To see a rehearsal of this new Carmen “made in Miami,” we visited the Little Haiti Cultural Center, where PLGDC is based, and spoke with London.

The dancers who performed it on the morning of Sunday, June 9, were Jeona Pinnock (as Carmen), Carlos Realegeno, and Ryan Charles-Mac.

Yanil Pabón is the protagonist of Peter London’s new “Carmen.” (Photo by Clinton Harris, courtesy of PLGDC)

On Sunday, June 23, “Carmen” will be performed by Yanil Pabón, Realegeno, and Camilo Toro.

The first thing that stands out in London’s “Carmen,” which lasts about 22 minutes, is the absence of Bizet’s music. “I don’t have the authorization to use it,” admits the choreographer.

Instead, we hear a musical collage that includes songs by the cantaora, actress, and bailaora from Cádiz, Ana Salazar.

“I chose flamenco music to represent Carmen’s passion, which I think you can feel in the power of flamenco and its bailaoras.”

London adds that the music should give audiences the feeling of being in Spain.

“It’s not about following the lyrics of the songs because if you do, you’ll see something completely different, and this is not music to dance to. If you’re listening to the music, looking for the steps, you’re no longer in the story. And that’s what I don’t want to happen. I want to give an atmosphere where the music is part of the cycle of energy present in the environment,” says London.

Similarly, we don’t see the soldier and the bullfighter who always accompany Carmen.

“They are an abstraction,” explains London. “They represent first the men she met in prison and then the gang of thieves she was part of. They represent the masculine energies in her life. Those she joined to survive, and that would eventually kill her.”

The dancers of Peter London Global Dance Company in “Steppe Tango,” choreography by Armando González. (Photo by Gregory Reed, courtesy of PLGDC)

London says Pablo Picasso and his paintings before he moved to Paris were present in the choreographer’s thoughts when he conceived the work.

“If Picasso were painting a painting of Carmen, what would his Carmen look like? With a normal face and hair?” London asks as he moves his hands around his head for emphasis.

“Or with different abstractions? Perhaps, with one eye looking in one direction and the other directed at a man located somewhere else.”

In this “Carmen,” stripped of unnecessary references and open to all interpretations, “the main idea,” its creator points out, “is that we observe how women have always struggled to find their way in a patriarchal society and often get into trouble if they go against the flow. If they are genuinely rebellious, they lose their lives when they try to go beyond the place that has been assigned to them.”

This promises to be a different and distinct “Carmen.”

For Puerto Rican dancer Pabón, having the opportunity to play Carmen “is an honor.”

She moved to Miami a year ago after a successful career with New York’s Ballet Hispánico, to complete her studies at the New World School of the Arts.

“That’s how I got in touch with Mr. London,” she says in a telephone interview.

“With ‘Carmen,’ London is doing everything he can to give Hispanic culture a platform,” she adds. “He usually focuses on celebrating culture, and I knew of his work with Haitian and African American Caribbean cultures. I love seeing him working now to celebrate Hispanic culture as well. In this case, celebrating Spain. ‘Carmen’ has a lot of Spanish dance moves, which makes me very happy because it’s something closer to my roots.”

The premiere of “Carmen” is undoubtedly the main attraction, but eight other works are also included in the program.

“Rebellion & Resilience” will open with “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” by Vitalia Jeune and “Frosties” by Justin Rapaport (with music by Dizzy Gillespie). Following will be “The Witness” by London (with the voice of Nina Simone) and “Steppe Tango” by Armando González (with “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla). The first half will close with “Azúcar,” also by London, inspired by the music of Celia Cruz.

The rest of the program is filled with works created by London. Three of them in the second part: “Touch Me One Last Time,” with songs by Billie Holiday, the solo “Roses for Women,” and then “Carmen.”

The show closes with London’s “Caribbean Suite,”  set to traditional Caribbean and Latin music.

In short, “Rebellion & Resilience” is jazz, tango, rumba and flamenco blending European and African elements. PLGDC brings them all together in an exercise of unity in diversity – rebellious as Carmen and resilient as the voices of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Celia Cruz.

WHAT: Peter London Global Dance Company in “Rebellion & Resilience.”

WHEN: 4 p.m., Sunday, June 23

WHERE: Sanctuary of the Arts, 410 Andalusia Ave., Coral Gables

PRICE: $45, $15 for students.

INFORMATION: 786-362-5132 or  sanctuaryofthearts.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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