The entrancingly torrid story of 'Carmen', the free-spirited and volatile femme fatale, has been performed the world over and sits right at home among some of the most beloved performances in the dance world. This time though, there's a twist.
From the brilliant mind of award-winning choreographer Natalie Weir, 'Carmen Sweet' takes all the fire and passion that defines the original production and transforms it into a contemporary performance.
“In your traditional classic 'Carmen', it's the one central character of Carmen. It's just one person whereas in Natalie Weir's version there are actually three different versions of Carmen,” dancer Michelle Barnett says.
“It's extremely fun. The music is incredible, the costumes, sets, every aspect just works really well. It's amazing.”
While still including a traditional portrayal of the title character, this unique rendition also interweaves two more depictions of Carmen, focussing on various aspects of the character's identity.
“Elise May plays, in my eyes, the classic Carmen and then Rhiannon [McLean] takes on a different interpretation — there's a different aspect of Carmen's personality traits in her performance. So she's playful and she's cunning and she's really very flirtatious. Then the Carmen I play is a bit more boisterous and fierce and she doesn't want to show her softer side, she's in control.”
Over time there's been only a handful of productions that have stood the test of time. 'Romeo and Juliet', 'Swan Lake' and 'The Nutcracker' are just a few that come to mind.
'Carmen Suite', renowned and often defined by its raw emotional quality and strong sexual overtones has become one of the long-standing classics in the dance industry. Tragic and passionate, it's a production that has incredible longevity and is still regarded as exceptional.
“I think there’re quite a few different possible interpretations of it and I think a lot of people can relate to Carmen as well. I mean, it's a great story, like 'Romeo and Juliet', everyone kind of knows what the story is and I think there's so many different avenues you can go down to explore it. Also, the music is really important and everyone loves it.”
Working outside the constructs of the established interpretation, Natalie Weir has brought exuberance and ingenuity to the production.
Acclaimed for her organic movement style, she's provided the dancers with the kind of creative license rarely given in a professional dance production.
Free to adapt the performance to their abilities, her creative process has the potential to ensure all the performers are exploiting their strengths and can explore their roles both physically and conceptually to a fuller extent.
“She gives you a lot of your own freedom and you can use your own style and she might say 'how about, maybe, if you do this' but she always comes back to your style. I don't know many people that work the way she does, there's not too much task work actually.
"She wants the movement to come out of your body and she wants to work with what comes out of you naturally. I think she's extremely intelligent and is very clever in the way she does it.”
Without any doubt 'Carmen' is a cornucopia of powerful emotion — seduction, lust, jealousy, love and revenge all play pivotal roles in this incredibly raw story.
It has always been praised by critics for the way these intense themes are portrayed and presented and now Natalie Weir's interpretation is garnering similar acclaim. With this monumental story being approached with fresh eyes and a fresh concept, it looks set to be a memorable and fabulous show.
“My favourite production I've been in? Honestly, probably 'Carmen'. It's just incredible.”
'Carmen Sweet' is to be performed at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC October 31 – November 2.