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Posts tagged ‘Dance’

Tierra Lorca

Granada had so much to offer us. We only went for a few days and yet look how I can go on about the place on The Daily Norm for what must seem like an eternity! Two clear highlights of our trip had to be the stunning Generalife gardens, followed by those similarly lush gardens surrounding the previous family home of Federico Garcia Lorca. In both places, a truly poetic sensibility lingered in the air, making each of the senses stand on high alert as perfumes, colours and ambience were magnified in turn. Imagine then just how good it got when these two experiences came together. And that is exactly what happened when, on the night of my 33rd birthday, we headed to a flamenco concert in the Generalife gardens, whose choreography and artistic direction was entirely based on the life and work of Lorca. It was a match made in heaven.

Sitting in an audience of plenty, out in the open air on a warm balmy night in the Generalife gardens seeing before me an incredibly original modern flamenco spectacle based on the work of one of my all time favourite poets, I felt like a truly well-treated birthday boy. The stars were shining so brightly above us that they felt like part of the stage set, while in front of us, the stage itself was constructed from wings and scenery made from the perfectly erect rows of cypress trees which fill the gardens. For someone rather in love with cypress trees, this was a spectacle indeed, and I was particularly thrilled when the director of the show used various lighting effects to make the magnificent natural surroundings part of the show’s scenery.

The performance, with its mix of traditional and modern flamenco was a true spectacle, and the essence of Lorca transmitted was particularly engaging. The effect of the show was long lasting, and when finally we arrived in Marbella after our stay in Granada, I was moved to paint a small work based on the performance.


Tierra Lorca (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

So the painting I post today is entitled, like the show, Tierra Lorca, for Granada is indeed the land from which Lorca came. With its simple shapes and a frame like the proscenium arch around a stage, this painting focuses on the line of poker straight cypress trees which so enthralled me, and the energetic movement of the incredibly agile flamenco dancers, illustrated by the rose like kinetic shape flowing onto (or off?) the stage. On the right, a black and white photo of Lorca reminds of the protagonist of the piece – a poignant memorial to a genius who himself put so many masterpieces on the stage.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

Composition No. 8: La Flamenca

Enrapturing, passionate, chromatic; clapping hands, a deep pulsating rhythm manifested in stamping feet, forceful bursts at the hip, all the way up to the twisting, extending, angular movements in the fingers; her face revels in an outward disclosure of passion felt deep within; her wailing, harsh swansong sings of deep sorrow; of inherent, historical pain; her dress, an abundant effluvia cascade of polka dots and frills moves to the same captivating rhythm as the dancer, its multiple layers swaying and bouncing, augmenting the dazzling mirage of a tangible passion climaxing towards its duende.

The dance of flamenco has long fascinated me, captivated my very heart and soul as it leaves me spell bound, pinned to the spot, enraptured by the raw materialisation of an emotional depth and cultural heritage which is so different from any dance ever made in the polite ballrooms of the west. When I went to see a concert of Estrella Morenete this Spring in London, I sat throughout much of the performance in tears. There is something about flamenco – its melodies and rhythms just as much as its dance which has the power to transport directly into the heart of Spain, and I think for this reason alone, I am in love with it.

Composition No. 8 - La Flamenca (2013 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Composition No. 8 (La Flamenca) (2013 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

This summer’s return to Spain of course never failed to inspire me artistically as the last few posts on The Daily Norm will demonstrate – and where that inspiration led to paintings, I continued to explore the medium of gouache which I first started using a few months back. When I headed along to the Flamenco Ana Maria in Marbella’s old town on the night before my birthday, and was again entranced by the exquisitely spontaneous emotional outpouring of the music and the dance, I knew that Flamenco would inspire my next gouache. So following on from my series of “compositions” in which I take more of an abstract attitude to otherwise figurative works, I constructed my dancer (on a page twice the size of my other compositions numbers 3-7) utilising the idea of an overlapping construct which I have been exploring in my other works, something which worked well when I was unable to settle on one pose, and so instead depicted several poses, all overlapping into a collective exploration of the electric impassioned movements of a flamenco dancer.

Her dress, my favourite feature, is a cornucopia of different reds, polka dots and of course those lacey frills, while the background attempts to reflect not only the angular, chromatic, discordant sounds of the flamenco rhythms and moves of the dance, but also echoes the kind of rich elaborate Moorish wooden ceilings which were introduced in Spain during the Islamic occupation of Al Andalus, and are now an iconic feature of the Islamic architecture which has helped to shape the cultural character of the South, and is indeed accredited to having given birth to the songs and movements of the Flamenco we know and love.

So without further ado, I leave you to look at my new composition, and also, below, a series of photographs from our recent visit to the Flamenco in Marbella. Hasta luego.

IMG_3861 IMG_3859 IMG_3852 IMG_3864 IMG_3849

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch: Norms (attempting to) do ballet

Ballet fever is in the air, well at least in my house, following Monday night’s Royal Ballet double bill spectacular The Dream/ Song of the Earth. Which got me thinking, what would happen if Norms danced the ballet? Well, the limitations are rather obvious. Unlike the sculpted muscular form of the human dancers, the use of which was applied to startling artistic effect in Song of the Earth, Norms are just blobby. This is fine for bouncing across the stage, and with one arm and wide eyes, they can even add a little dramatic expression into their dance. But as far as en pointe goes, the best a Norm can do is try to make themselves pointed… though the trouble then is they begin to resemble a spinning top rather than a ballerina, and we know what happens to the spinning top once it comes to the end of its revolutions. Oh well, you can’t say that the Norms don’t try. Here they are in the attempt, complete with a melodious Norm orchestra and a energetic Norm-ballet lift.

Ballerina Norm (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The Norm-ballet lift (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

I’m off to live in the real world now. Until next time!

Night at the Royal Ballet: The Dream/ Song of the Earth

When I was invited to spend the evening at London’s Royal Opera House to see a double-bill Royal Ballet performance of The Dream and Song of the Earth, I was more excited by the prospect of enjoying the sumptuous surroundings of the Royal Opera House (which, owing to hefty prices, I rarely get to enjoy) rather than the ballet itself. I’ve always considered myself more of an opera man dismissing the love of ballet as being confined to those fanatics with a familiarity of and appreciation for the technical aspects of dance. Last night I found the Royal Opera House to be as stunning as anticipated. From the startlingly modern, elegantly dazzling Paul Hamlyn Hall, where champagne takes centre stage, and the glass and iron structure is like a diamond preserved from the Victorian era, to the sumptuous surroundings of the plush red and gold auditorium: this theatre is without a doubt the jewel in London’s crown. But for me, the real stunner of the evening was, to my surprise, but quite appropriately, the preserve of the performance on stage.

The stunning Paul Hamlyn ("floral") hall interior

The Dream

In their performance of The Dream, set to the well known music of Mendelssohn (the wedding march now being played out all over the world as a newly married couple descend magnificently down the church aisle) the Royal Ballet provided a whimsical, tight and aesthetically joyous production, a cornucopia of visual delights, and a perfectly danced narrative of Shakespeare’s renowned Midsummer Night’s Dream tale. But in Song of the Earth, the Royal Ballet did not just present a ballet performance, but an indubitable work of art, a stunning rendering of moving sculpture, a work of poetry told through the human form. It was mesmerising, haunting and moving all in one. I left the ballet a changed man.

Oberon and Puck - The Dream

So why was it so good? Well I am a quite the philistine when it comes to the technical adroitness of a ballet dancer, but it was immediately obvious from both performances that the Royal Ballet does not cut corners when it comes to quality. In their performance of The Dream, the ballerinas danced with such poise and light delicacy that the distinction between dream and reality blurred as a stage full of flitting fairies appeared to come to life. This was no doubt enhanced by the beautiful and complex scenery coupled with low misty lighting which perfectly epitomised the fairytale grotto of childhood imaginings. This performance was definitely the more traditional of the two, but it did not lack allure because of it. Rather, the charm of the corps de ballet, identically dressed in diaphanous luminescent little tutus, tinged with forest shades of greens and turquoise, was like the coming to life of a Degas pastel. The romance of the ballet was thereafter confirmed, as I imagined myself as something of a Degas, ready to leap up into the wings and paint the dancers at work.

Edgar Degas, Blue Dancers (1893)

But in Song of the Earth, greater forces combined to conjure a startling production of mesmeric power. Here the music, the lighting, the stark scenery, the stripped down costumes and the athletic skill of the dancers all joined forces to create an awe-inspiring tour de force of emotional exploration. Song of the Earth is a ballet choreographed by the ballet supremo Kenneth Macmillan (1929-92). It is set to the haunting, often chromatic and deeply stirring score by Mahler. His 1908 composition (“Das Lied von der Erde”), was itself based upon six ancient chinese poems which had been translated into German the previous year by Hans Bethge. The poems, which dealt with themes of living, parting and salvation touched Mahler deeply at a time when he was embroiled in his own personal melancholy, having lost one of his children to scarlet fever and diphtheria and being himself close to death with a significant heart defect. The significant emotional journey along which Mahler was relentlessly embarking during this time bleeds through, in every tender and painful detail, into the score. In the Royal Ballet’s performance, the songs are intermittently sung by a tenor and contralto. When combined with dance, the result is magical.

Song of the Earth (© Tristram Kenton for the Guardian)

“The wine already beckons in the golden goblet
but do not drink yet – first I will sing you
a song.
With a burst of laughter the song of sorrow 
shall sound into your soul.
When sorrow draws near, the gardens of the
soul lie waste,
Joy and singing wither and die.
Life and death alike are dark.”

I: The Drinking Song of Earth’s Misery

Song of the Earth

The dance perfectly reflected the themes of anguish, life, death and salvation intermittently explored by the singers and the score. The contemporary choreography was so artistically executed, it took my breath away, and words are not sufficient to describe the effect produced. Nonetheless, as I attempt to consider and put words to my emotional response, I am particularly struck by the staging – a stark bare stage, with the dancers lit from above and behind. This resulted in shadows forming on the front of the dancers’ bodies, so that every muscle and angle of their beautifully choreographed and moving forms could be appreciated with an enhanced focus. Also, the monochrome tones and use of identical costumes amongst male and female dancers respectively meant that the personality was taken out of the dancers, and the focus placed in the use of their bodies, and the shapes of their dance in narrating the emotions portrayed. Thus at times the dancers appeared to form the shape of temples, flowers, swinging pendulums and of twisting anguished souls, entangled in chains around each other as the dancers desperately sought to escape their inexorable link with death.

Carlos Acosta as the Messenger of Death (© ROH, Bill Cooper)

By contrast, the brooding masked persona of the characterised messenger of death, stunningly portrayed last night by Ballet favourite, Carlos Acosta, was omnipresent across the performance, a sinister undertone whose looming role in the tale was forebodingly clear. Particularly impressive also was the lead female ballerina Marianela Nuñes, exhibiting an almost superhuman control of her elegant form, specially when, during one movement, she danced en point backwards across the stage for what must have been almost a minute uninterrupted. The skill of dancing on show was staggering.

Ballet is one of those things you just have to see in action, alive and throbbing on the stage. Even Degas’ paintings can’t replicate the power and emotional draw of a real performance, and televised performances also lack the intensity of a live show. Now I have seen the real thing, I am a man converted.

Monochrome colours and simple costumes to stunning effect: Song of the Earth

Postscript: Thanks go to my friend Siobhan, who took asked me along to the ballet last night, and particular congratulations go to Francesca Hayward, dancer of the Royal Ballet and member of the corps de ballet in last night’s performance of The Dream – it’s incredible to see a young face from my childhood up on the Royal Ballet stage having achieved so much as such an accomplished young dancer. I envisage a great future ahead for you.