Matador

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Published: 17th February, 2019
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There is a spectacular new dance show currently playing at The Melba Spiegeltent that is sure to go on to bigger and better things. A most commercially focused enterprise, Matador is sure to find its audience with those who are looking for an energetic and immersive theatrical dance experience.

Based on the timeless theme of love, there is a simple and unspoken narrative that takes us from the beginning to the end, via the love life of a certain Bull, danced with great passion by Ned Zaina and his Matador by dancer and aerialist Kelly Byrne. Written, directed and produced by Bass G Fam, it’s all very fiery and Spanish with plenty of passion and loads of machismo. The story plays through a series of vignettes, starting with names like “Love at First Sight” and “Flirt”, then “Secrets”, “Chaos”, “Erotica”, “Cheater” and “The Wrath” right through to “My Heart Is Yours”. There is a mix of several dance styles, but primarily Commercial, Contemporary and Latin. A large cast fills the stage with exciting routines showing not only incredible skill and talent, but also true discipline. It is clear that this show has been relentlessly rehearsed. There never appeared to be any deviation from the high precision physicality of the piece. Remarkable for the first night of a new production.

Within the ensemble, there are some extraordinary artists whose solo routines and couples work really show off their strengths and personality. Throughout, each dancer gets to show what they can do. There is a real Burlesque flavour to Matador and Kelly Byrne is equally at home, scantily clad on the trapeze or dancing en Pointe and tormenting her bull. There is also aerialist Zoe Marshall, who does her routine whilst suspended by her hair. I really enjoyed the way this was staged and haven’t seen anything like it since the Great Moscow Circus in the 1970s. Back then I was fascinated by ‘Haerialist’, Daisy Bentos flying across the big top by her follicles, just as Zoe Marshall did.

I wish there was a full cast list to describe which dancer was which, because there were so many excellent and exciting performances I’d like to mention. One male dancer donned thigh-high leather boots and leotard to join the ladies in an erotic routine, which added a lot of humour and camp to the show. And this is a show that contains much eroticism. All kinds too. It’s a very modern production in that it includes all types of sexuality; it isn’t just start to finish, guy and gal routines. There is a lovely coupling of dancer Christopher Politis and tattooed aerialist/contortionist and dancer Tro Griffiths, which seems perfectly at home here. There are also female couples (and then some) dancing in delicate lingerie, which segues into a delightful aerial act. I especially liked “Cheater” where our Bull, Ned Zaina, never without his signature horns, has flings (literally) with every lady in the cast one after another. Then when he’s had them all, he tries it with a man. It doesn’t work out and we face “The Wrath” not only of the spurned man, but from the Matador herself, Kelly Byrne, en Pointe!

Much credit should go to the choreographers, Gerard Pigg for the commercial dances and Josephine Magiolo for the contemporary styles. There were also two guest Latin choreographers, Carmelo Pizzino and Jessica Raffa, best known from television’s “Dancing with the Stars”. I’d have liked some more light and shade in the movements, as the macho elements got a bit wearing after a time.

There is a minimal set by Alexandra Hiller, as most of the stage is full of dancers, so the scene changes are effected with lighting and the dancers moving the stage pieces around. There are numerous very fast costume changes, which keeps each item fresh and different from another. Designed by Bass G Fam himself, the costumes are beautiful and made for dancing in. There are heavily embroidered g-strings, corsets on men and women, sky-high stilettos, diaphanous chiffon negligees, embroidered skin tight matador pants, but there’s still room for lots of bare flesh.

It’s a really exciting and somewhat raunchy show, so if you like contemporary and modern dance performed by a young and talented cast, this is a show for you. I took a dancer friend who is 80 years old and she absolutely loved it. My only criticism is that it was a bit too long on the opening night, but I’m sure it will tighten up as the show finds its feet.

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Jon Jackson reviewed the performance of “Matador” at The Melba Spiegeltent on February 15, 2019. The season runs until March 2.