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Todos Los Gatos Son Pardos
Written by Susannah Radford   
Published on Sunday, 10 August 2008

The stage illuminates five figures dressed in white, flowing material.  It's a beautiful picture to start the show, and Todos los Gatos son Pardos is full of such striking imagery.  As the dancers move through the night they pat their chest repetitively, as if to soothe an out of control heart; birds seem to flutter at their throats, and emotions are coiled so tightly within that one woman seems to wear her fury like a skirt.

Todos los Gatos son Pardos showcases six contemporary flamenco pieces at the Universal Arts Theatre on George Street.  I had expected a more traditional display of flamenco and was a little surprised - which only proves I should read the Fringe programme more carefully.  These pieces have the feeling of vignettes, and while some contain a traditional flamenco flavour, most are more contemporary.  For me this left something slightly lacking, as the pieces didn't have a chance to build into a frenzy of stomping feet, flashing arms and whirling skirts; rather, the energy is controlled and then diverted into another scene.

However, there are glimpses of traditional flamenco fury, plus the requisite sweat flying from the man's brow.  In one piece a sculpture, like the hand of a clock or a water pump, gently moves back and forth.  A man dances slowly into the red glow of this stunning image and then is joined by another.  As women pass by, the men try to out-dance each other in a lovely display of machismo, flirting and teasing the audience.  One's hands move with the grace of birds, another's feet a blur of red patent leather.

There are delightful moments of humour, as three women sit down for a natter - and a process of musical chairs begins with the arrival of a man.  Sitting in their chairs, they perform their footwork on the ground until the momentum moves them to standing.   The red glow and dusty heat of the Mediterranean night is evoked in the next piece, which sees the push and pull of two relationships set against an evening of screaming cats.  But while beautiful to watch, there was unfortunately nothing new in the choreography.

One of the latter pieces sees a series of lit poles evoke a smoky street, to the sound of Metallica's Nothing else matters.  Visually stunning, it was predominantly choreographed movement rather than dance.  Surprisingly, heavy metal really suits flamenco; both are individually passionate, and it's quite a quirky match.

For me, the choreography was more style over substance, and there was just not enough flamenco to soothe my soul.  But the audience at the Universal Arts Theatre thought otherwise - and were audibly satisfied and appreciative of the performances.

And on another, important note... I did notice some rather luscious cupcakes in the small café on my way out.

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