DeNada Dance Theatre at Midlands Arts Centre, Cannon Hill, Birmingham
February 25, 2016
I saw an earlier incarnation of Ham and Passion as a work in progress during the 2014 International Dance Festival Birmingham and noted it had lots of ideas capable of development. What a difference 18 months makes. This new three act version is hilarious, shocking, ingenious, disconcerting, witty and worrying by turns. You just never know what ’s going to happen.
The first act Passionaria found the audience rather reverential as a drag queen (the amazing Phil Sanger) went through a series of over-reactions to a large Serrano ham while robing and disrobing obsessively on the very edge of global war. If that sounds challenging, right from the off Carlos Pons Guerra‘s powerful sense of humour skewers Spanish cultural preoccupations while playing games with gender.
Act Two, Young Man! sees two heroin addicts (Azzurra Ardovini, Mariva Da Silva) in post-Franco Spain endlessly role playing in a somewhat sadomasochistic relationship (think sacking and rope) which either of them could get of any time they want to, set to a sound track of sentimental vintage Spanish pop. The main message here seems to be that submission and domination, however contrived, is necessarily by spoken or unspoken contract, consensual and not quite as dangerous as it looks, putting the play firmly in role play.
The final sequence O Maria sees the same three dancers as two women and a nun in the suffocating atmosphere of 1950’s Seville. The nun’s forced disrobement is yet another game opening up the possibility that for some people denial is the most powerful aphrodisiac of all. Here the ham comes into play in ways I couldn’t possibly mention on a family website including a very Last Supperish sequence, but suffice it to say the games here are just that, and no cooked meat was injured during the performance.
So – gender politics and the iconography of the choreographer’s own cultural heritage amply explored to a Spanish hits soundtrack. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, but this cultural deconstruction is a powerful satire on Spanish obsessions all done with a huge sense of humour – think sex, violence and the supernatural with some very funny religious references and a marvellous soundtrack of passionate popular songs.
I eagerly await more Pons Guerra developments.