The U.S. premiere of the Dutch National Ballet’s Frida concluded the 20th dance season of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center. Frida was conceived and choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa who magnificently realized her vision to capture, as she says, “the expressive surrealism that dance—by analogy to Kahlo’s paintings—can embody.”
Dutch National Ballet’s Frida
In two Acts with 18 episodic scenes, the ballet took us on a mythic journey into Kahlo’s life and inner spirit. It portrays her torment, as she suffers through physical pain and her emotionally turbulent relationship with husband Diego Rivera.
Dieuweke van Reij’s set and costume design are exquisite and visually captivating. It presented an operatic feel to the ballet as well. Scenes transition from the bustling streets of Mexico City – the lush landscapes that Frida cherished, and the enigmatic interiors of her home, Casa Azul. The costume design captures Kahlo’s distinctive style and the macabre skeletons and fanciful creatures remind us that we are also in a dream world.
The emotionally evocative score by British composer Peter Salem is performed by a live orchestra conducted by Matthew Rowe. The music establishes a sense of cultural authenticity, as it blends folk, mariachi, and traditional rhythms. Finally, renowned vocalist Chavela Vargas sang additional Mexican songs of love and sorrow. Thus providing the performance with an intimate sensibility.
As with Kahlo’s own paintings, the ballet is also immersed in symbolism. A large black Cube opens to reveal iconographic tableaus and absorb characters. Skeletons also play a dominant role to support moving the story as well as the sets around. Frida’s alter ego, a Deer comforts her and a colorfully plumed Bird offers a hope of transcendence though her suffering.
Maia Makhateli’s performance as Frida stunningly captures the essence of the iconic artist. Additionally, her portrayal offers a sensitivity that embodies Frida’s struggle to balance vulnerability and strength.
James Stout as Diego Rivera adroitly twirls and leaps in a frumpy tweed suit. He shows us Diego’s larger-than-life personality that complements Frida’s delicate yet equally formidable character.
Featured are: Erica Horwood as The Deer and Riho Sakamoto as The Bird; Solo Skeletons include: Conor Walmsley, Dustin True, Jan Spunda and Pascal Johnson, Male Fridas, Joseph Massarelli, Fabio Rinieri, Daniel Silva, Giovanni Princic, Dingkai Bai, Daniel Montero Real, Leo Hepler, Remy Catalan, Manu Kumor, and Rafael Valdez;
Other talented members of the company bring to life an expressive chorus. It included: dancing Male Skeletons, Female Skeletons, Butterflies of Death, Doll Skeletons, Leaf Ladies, Female Hairy Skeletons, Birds, Police Officers as well as a Young Frieda and Young Diego;
Frida is an unforgettable experience that leaves the audience deeply moved to appreciate the spirit of Frida Kahlo. The performance is a remarkable synergy of dance, music, set design, costumes and storytelling.
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