Chewing on Carmen.


Carmen, the fiery Spanish gypsy who would rather die than relinquish her freedom, bursts on to the CBT stage in less than 3 weeks. The rehearsal process has begun, and now with one week under our belts and a chunk of the ballet having been taught. .. It is time to explore the myth of one of the most fearless females in the history of music, dance, and literary works.

The first time around I devoured scads of information in order to create the full length ballet. Carmen.     I hope sharing some of these facts with you; will whet your appetite to see the ballet thru the Picasso slant I engaged.   

First off -For those of you… who don’t even have a clue about the story- briefly Cliff Note style- I would say: The story is set in Seville, Spain, circa 1830, and concerns the vixen beauty Carmen, a Gypsy with a fiery temper. Free with her love, she woos the corporal Don José, an inexperienced soldier. Their relationship leads to his rejection of his former love, mutiny against his superior, and joining a gang of smugglers. His jealousy when she turns from him to the bullfighter Escamillo leads him to murder Carmen.

This untamed dangerous gypsy with the morality of an alley cat, cannot bear Don Jose’s protective but stifling love. Underscored by Bizet’s celebrated music, — “It is rare that a piece of music is so much a part of our psyche,” as it has gone far beyond the opera world. Go to a restaurant, and its background music.”

Carmen’s defiant spirit shines in bold, expressive dance, with the hint of Picasso cubism in my version of the tale. Mistresses and wives successively served as Pablo Picasso’s muses, but they were not enough. He also sought inspiration from fictional women. And who better than Carmen to personify the themes of sex, love, violence, tragedy and death that run through so much of his work?  

It is also no surprise that the bullfight would emerge in so many of his drawings and paintings: Bullfighting is of course ever present in Picasso’s work, not only because he was a fervent aficionado (he frequently attended corridas in Arles in southern France), but also because he used it as a metaphor for the animal passions driving human behavior, including his own.  In Mérimée and Bizet too these parallels are self-evident: Carmen is killed outside Seville’s bullring by her jilted lover, Don José, just as her new lover, the matador Escamillo, (Jonathan Tabbert) is slaying a bull inside the arena.

So after we teach the steps the real coaching begins for this type of ballet.  I emphasize the portrayal of Carmen should be, powerful, but also a woman is intentionally shown without beauty or grace. Carmen is too controlling, too independent as Jose recalls her to have even a hint of delicacy. She contrasts superbly with Jose’s view of Micaela (Jennifer Balcerzak Muller): dutiful, caring, tireless, and a tad conservative

When Miki Kawamura steps into the role of Carmen during CBT’s upcoming performances, Miki will do more than swivel her hips in sultry circles. The temptress Carmen must lure Corporal Don Jose (Alexander Collen) away from his true love and into a life of crime and murder—only to reveal that she isn’t exactly the loyal type.  “Carmen is perceived by some people as a gypsy whore and that’s it, but I think there’s much more to her than that.She has a free spirit, but she’s so fearful of being controlled. Yes, she wants to be loved, but her fear of losing her freedom, of being tied down, supersedes that.”

To help make her Carmen seem real, I have insisted that Miki take a thespian’s approach to the role. In dance unlike the opera she cannot use her voice, but there’s still opportunity to add different layers to the character,”. Each phrase of music can be construed as a line in a script, and there’s an action for each. The dancer must come up with her own back stories:   The growth of the character begins.   I will have more to report.. Stay tuned .. after all the ballet is called Carmen.  Time to keep chewing.!


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