Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rosario Suárez and Julio Rodríguez perform.

Foto: Pedro Portal.

The Miami Herald.
Posted on Wed, Sep. 01, 2010

Review | Self-indulgence mars `Función'


Rosario Suárez and Julio Rodríguez perform.

A host of interesting ideas and illustrious Cuban exile collaborators is behind La Ultima Función (The Last Performance), the theater-dance piece that premiered Friday at Miami Beach's Byron Carlyle Theater and repeats there this weekend. Unfortunately, that potential is sabotaged by emotional and egotistical self-indulgence and intellectual incoherence.

Función is the product of the long friendship and mutual admiration between its star, Rosario ``Charin'' Suárez, a revered former prima ballerina of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba who defected in 1994, and Abilio Estévez, an admired exile playwright and author who lives in Spain. Estévez first admired Suárez's dancing in 1975, when she was a brilliant dancer in her early 20s, and Función is the result of their 11 years of work.

At the heart of Función is Suárez's struggle with her continued desire to dance in her late 50's, as her body's capacity fades while her artistic ability remains powerful. The theme of the clash of aging, mortality and creativity is potentially potent. But Estévez layers on so many other ideas, and with such grandiose text, that Función becomes an overwrought mishmash.

Suárez was, technically and theatrically, an extraordinary ballerina, and she is still a charismatic performer and strong dancer. But the sense of indulgent adoration that surrounds her in Función diminishes, instead of exalts, her history and her continued potential as an artist. Under director Lilliam Vega, Suárez beams and minces like a ballet ingenue or glowers darkly, acting in broad ballet-mime strokes that seem overdone in an intimate theater setting.

Función opens with actor Julio Rodríguez -- in roles of a vaguely omnipotent teacher, Suárez's father, a man-about-old-Havana and other figures -- who calls on Suárez to face her audience.

She emerges from an enormous skirt that forms a pool of red fabric (shades of Martha Graham), and gesticulates in the first of many vague, expressionistic dance sequences. (The elaborate, gorgeous costumes and set of glittery black and velvety red curtains are by interior designers Jorge Noa and Pedro Balmaseda, whose company Nobarte produced Función.)

Suárez debates Rodríguez about fate, dancing, aging and happiness, alternately encouraging and berating. There are flashes of wit -- ``I dance, therefore I am.'' ``Ah, you're a Cartesian ballerina.'' But mostly there are clichés along the lines of ``Birds fly, but they don't dance.'' There are dance references to Giselle, as Suárez mimes plucking flower petals; to nostalgia and sensual Havana nights, and to bringing happiness to the repressed masses in Cuba.

Función ends with Suárez's performance of the famous-to-the-point-of-cliché solo The Dying Swan, which seems meant to represent the poignancy of her predicament and ballet's combination of transience and immortality -- the beautiful swan-ballerina, perpetually dying and being reborn with new generations of dancers. Instead, she seems to be indulging in her, and ballet's, history.

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