Dance review: The articulate passion of Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca's Antigona | Arts

Dance review: The articulate passion of Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca's Antigona

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Soledad Barrio, a force of nature in Noche Flamenca's Antigona - PHOTO BY GRANT HALVERSON
  • photo by Grant Halverson
  • Soledad Barrio, a force of nature in Noche Flamenca's Antigona
Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca
Durham Performing Arts Center
Saturday, June 27


The Spanish colloquialism tener duende means to have a certain magic; to have soul. But these are just words doing their best to capture what the body can say in a single step or look. Soledad Barrio, star of Noche Flamenca’s Antigona, has duende—so much of it that it’s difficult to tear your eyes from her. In front of an American Dance Festival crowd at DPAC, Barrio’s steps escaped uncensored from her heart—from the eye of the storm. 

Barrio plays the title role in this production, directed by her husband, Noche Flamenca's creative director, Martín Santangelo. Born in Madrid, Barrio studied flamenco from an early age. Her mother’s family survived Franco’s dictatorship, and that experience shaped Barrio’s upbringing and Santangelo's take on the Sophocles tragedy. As Antigona, Barrio wears many hats: dedicated, selfless daughter to Oedipus, black sheep of the royal family, resistance to King Creon, lover to Haemon and, finally, hopeless victim of her own guilt. This is not your everyday flamenco role, but Barrio plays it with the intensity of a seasoned bailaora.

The show expertly blends two cultures, telling the story of Antigone without straying too far from the cast’s flamenco roots. Half of the billing, in the tradition of flamenco, is the star’s name. The cast performs in a Broadway-like style, giving somewhat showy—and intently humorous—performances as Ismene, Creon and a chorus of dancers that mimics the Greek dramatic tradition. Whether or not you’re a fan of theatricality, the expertise of the performers and Barrio’s presence as Antigona solidify the show.

Barrio performs Antigona’s life—one of unrelenting strife and sorrow—with a sage fragility. Antigona is devoted, forgiving, determined and strong; Barrio channels her pain with finesse and vulnerability. She carries strength in every rhythmic stomp and practiced curl of the wrists. She is the center of it all, and the other characters turn to watch when she enters the spotlight. They sing her name. In defiance of tyrannical decrees, she will fight for her family, no matter the obstacles.

All in all, the performance was heartbreaking, entertaining and tragic. There are few better new ways to experience Sophocles’ tale and the timeworn struggle of his heroine than through the intrigue of flamenco. After the cast had taken their bows and the curtain was drawn, the duende lingered on.


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