Gustavo Ramirez Sansano said he was interested in how a machismo culture, like that of his native Spain, is obsessed with the image of the free woman when he chose to adapt “Carmen” for Luna Negra Dance Theater. Sansano uses Bizet’s famous, hummable score (sans vocals), placing it to contemporary dance in a way that should make opera aficionados hear the music with new ears. Other lush elements of opera are present, too, reduced to a level of suggestion that supports the abstractions in the choreography without interfering with them. Grayscale costumes by fashion designer David Delfin and ingenious all-white set pieces by Luis Crespo establish scene and character in the midst of Sansano’s, quick, athletic choreography that blends ballet, modern, gestural movements and hints of pasodoble and flamenco. The mise-en-scene is inspired by Picasso, who inserted Carmen into more than 140 of his paintings.
This is the first evening-length piece Sansano has created for Luna Negra—now in its third year under his direction—and it will be fun to see how the very fine dancers in this company enjoy sinking their chops into a sustained work that demands character development on top of keen dancing. Snippets performed at a preview last week allowed a peek at fast, aggressive gestures—our tragic hero Don Jose pulls his head forward from the jaw, obsession driving him back to the gypsy woman. One highlight is a reunion duet between Don Jose and Carmen. Sansano has a gift for creative partnering and his translation of the hunger and playfulness of fresh passion into movement should make the audience flush with fond memories. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Harris Theater, 205 East Randolph, (312)334-7777. March 24 at 8pm. $25-$65.