nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
March 19, 2011
Between Worlds, in New York for its off-Broadway premiere, is being billed as a “first-of-its-kind flamenco fantasia” but it feels far less than original. Vaguely reminiscent of West Side Story, Cats, Stomp, and several other familiar shows, this dance-based production is slickly entertaining but despite the polished efforts of the twenty-two talented performers in the cast, it ends up feeling like all spectacle, no substance.
The creation of two international power players—Grammy-nominated director Pablo Croce and glitzy dance star Siudy—Between Worlds tells the story of a post-apocalyptic future where water has nearly disappeared and apparently only roving rival dance tribes, the Flamenco and the Urban, have survived and are forced to compete for scant resources. According to the program, “Legend says on a night with a full moon, a pure soul will be born to make the rains descend from the skies…” and indeed Act I, Scene 2 features creator/choreographer/star Siudy, being “born” to the Flamenco tribe to save the world. As a dancer/choreographer, Siudy is accomplished and committed, but as the story creator, she seems to have been more concerned with building herself a star vehicle than a compelling story. The other dancers are also highly competent and their obvious hours of practice bear fruit on stage with nobody missing a beat of the percussion-blaring, drum-pounding original music of Diego Franco, Ernesto Briceno, and Roberto Castillo.
However, despite the technical merits of the performance, even the dance elements lack the emotion and innovation promised by the production’s advance press. The Flamenco tribe, represented by a troupe of highly trained, nymph-like females, is meticulously in-sync but takes a military approach to flamenco that strips it of its passion. The Urban tribe, stylized as grungy jungle cats, combines standard elements of “urban” dance such as pop and lock, step, and breakdance, which, while not very new, are delivered in a happier spirit that emotes more through movement. Brian Abadia, playing Dowsing, a member of the Urban tribe who becomes the lover of Siudy's character, is a strong and sensuous mover, but he all but disappears as a stage presence when he’s not dancing.
The show’s press release states that “only one force is powerful enough to save the world from itself—love,” but there is very little evidence of that theme on stage. Siudy and Dowsing form an illicit relationship, which leads to war between the two tribes, but at the height of the most climactic battle scene, the action is stopped for an inexplicable—albeit, very proficient—dance solo from Siudy. After this overly milked sequence, the war instantly ends and the rains start to fall, leading me to wonder whether the audience is meant to take away that the star’s ego, not love, ultimately saves the day.
The audience seemed fairly entertained at points during the show—and as easy, crowd-pleasing entertainment, the production works reasonably well…but for all its aspirations to be a revolution in music, dance, and feeling, Between Worlds seems to settle for hurling out a lot of loud sound and mostly soulless movement to obscure the fact that it’s actually nothing of the sort.