Saturday, 25 March 2017

REVIEW: Tavaziva in Africarmen: compellingly seductive

Tue 21 Mar
Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Tavaziva - Africarmen

Tavaziva's Africarmen returns on tour this Spring. Beginning the evening at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Zimbabwean-born Artistic Director, Bawren Tavaziva, and founding member of The Place, Namron OBE, is joined by Marie McCluskey OBE in a pre-show talk. Tavaziva discusses Zimbabwe's restricted freedom of speech and his and Namron's passion for youth work. Tavaziva and Namron's shared desire to pass on the inspiration they received as young men is particularly striking.

After two heart warming works with boys from north London, we dive head first into Tavaziva's sexy recreation of Bizet's infamous Carmen. Bawren's interpretation swaps the original setting of southern Spain for an African oil rigging village, alive with military corruption. The shadow of an almost-phallic rusting oil derrick looms threateningly on stage, a foreshadow of what's to come for our tragic love triangle.  

Dancers Lisa Rowley & Carmine De Amicis in Africarmen (PC: Dillon Rose)
Flexed wrists, percussive qualities and polyrhythms point towards Tavaziva's Zimbabwean roots and his training with Tumbuka Dance Company. Neatly tied up with contemporary and ballet, Tavaziva fuses his Zimbabwean heritage in Africarmen, to comment on political and challenging themes- many of which cannot be spoken of in Zimbabwe. 

The pace is unforgivingly fast; each act brims with energy, the tension builds a notch higher with each change of scene. Rolling hips, undulating spines and Composer Fayyaz Virji's throbbing score make for a very very sexy Africarmen.

Dancers Theo Samsworth & Lisa Rowley in Africarmen (PC: Manoj Nair)
The cast of Africarmen (PC: Joseph Bisat Marshall)

Tavaziva's dancers carry the choreography with strength. Carmen, danced by Lisa Rowley, is seductive and powerful. Her presence consumes the stage, as she sinks into deep lunges and plunges into bottomless second pliés, indulging in the gentle fall and rise. Equally, Theo Samsworth, dancing Mhondiwa (Tavaziva's lascivious answer to Don José), is compelling and tempting in his delivery.

We follow Carmen exchange one man for another, slipping between her desire for love and lust, until her story comes to its destructive end. Africarmen is an explosion of pulsing sensuality and energy- the strong cast do not hold back in their attack. While there is room for a tighter fusion of styles, Africarmen is breathtakingly exciting.

Maya Pindar

Read Maya's interview with Bawren Tavaziva here.
Africarmen is showing next in Poole, Ipswich and Bath. Visit Tavaziva's website for full dates and tickets.

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