Every superlative that springs to mind would be thoroughly justified by this non-stop, full-on, surpassing night of ballet. Of course, by ballet, I don't mean Swan Lake; 'though similar, if not superior levels of technical precision and accomplishment are in evidence. I mean fire; colour; and, of course, raging passion. Passion for tradition; excellence; personality.
Perhaps Baras' passion, in these performances, comes, at least in part, from the fact she's dedicated them to her mother. Wherever, it's a wellspring which I can't imagine having any containment or bounds.
The fact of her maternal devotion could hardly be surpassed, either, as a poetic backstory: her mother, Concha, taught her to dance. The dance-school diva must've been on the money, if the awards Baras, the younger, are testimony: among them, Sara has clinched Best Female Spanish Dance performer, twice.
As a director and choreographer, I imagine, she'd be the most demanding taskmistress. Indeed, as much was alluded to by the incumbent SOH CEO, Richard Evans, in an apres address: while the performers were expected to partake of sparkling wine and canapes with the would-be glitterati, they were still being subjected to notes, by Ms Baras.
Who knows what she could possibly have found to critique, as, even with my new multifocals, I couldn't discern a foible or flaw. Holus-bolus, what I witnessed was slick, sleek, sophisticated and seamless.
If she be megalomaniacal (not only does she dance, direct and choreograph, but lights and costume designs), it's worth the psychosis, as the outcomes speak, outstandingly & resoundingly, for themselves.
Sabores means flavours and this show is a veritable tapas of Spanish culture, in its progressive unfolding of the palos, or styles, which comprise flamenco.
The glossy, expensive programme speaks, as such publications do, of setting the Concert Hall stage alight. Baras and company did. Nor is 'heart-stopping virtuosity' a misnomer or exaggeration; rather, an utterly apt encapsulation of the profusion of talent and skill set before us, in this groaning Hispanic banquet of music and dance.
When a dozen or more dancers are simultaneously engaged in the heel-and-toe rhythms which so richly characterise the flamenco form & exhibit such synchronous, near-military perfection, one does, almost, have to remind oneself to breathe. Moreover, the eye can barely apprehend the dazzling, athletic dexterity of their footwork, which tends to make even untouchable icons, like Astaire, look as if they'd two left feet.
Opening with a surprisingly theatrical warmup scene, which soon segues into a series of, again, breathtaking vignettes, the fiery troupe leaps, as does one's spirit, from strength to strength: in a week or two tainted by shallow political machinations, hypocrisy, mooted bailouts of government-sanctioned thieves by hapless taxpayers, baleful, 'now, or never' warnings of imminent, climactic, climatic doom and so much more, Sabores is a timely reminder of the acme to which homo sapiens can aspire. In earning and achieving ovations, it should be noted, on this occasion, Baras has been auspiciously abetted by her star male colleagues, Jose Serrano and Luis Ortega; both astonishing exemplars of their art.
Hardly surprising Baras and co defied all expectations with a history-making shattering of box-office records, in Madrid, just last year, where Sabores played for 5 months. Surely that must be the arch accolade, given, I'd surmise, the practically inevitable cynicism and complacency of an expert audience, to which flamenco could easily prove as fresh as mouldy bread.
Moreover, if the enthusiastic representation of the Spanish community at this event was anything to go by, Baras can rest comfortably on her pedestal; especially so, having just come from, I gather, a correspondingly well-received Sadler's Wells season.
The music, too, by Jose Maria Bandera is integral to Sabores' vivid 'paintings' of the soul and essence of what it is to be Spanish. Worthy of note, too, are the other players: Jose Carlos Gomez; Mario Montoya; Miguel de la Tolea; Saul Quiros.
And it comes within earshot of last year's Ladino triumph, by the equally awe-inspiring Eva Yerbabuena; regrettably, having not had the privilege, I can't, personally, vouch for the reputed Belen Maya, who appeared in Gala Flamenca, earlier this year.
Pushing 40, Baras shows no sign of wear, or wane; rather, the star of, probably, the world's most renowned bailaora still seems to be rising. And rising. And rising.
Malcolm Turnbull might be an interesting, intelligent and versatile operator. But it's Sara Pereyra Baras and the few, if any, who might lust for her stature, that are truly forces of nature. And nowhere does the lifeblood run more river-like, or richly, than through the arteries of flamenco. Intoxicating! And Cadiz is an even greater city for having borne Baras. To invoke food once more, The Guardian has called hers 'gourmet flamenco'. Ole!
Sydney Opera House presents
Sara Baras Ballet Flamenco
Venue: Concert Hall | Sydney Opera House
Dates: 25 September - 28 September
Duration: 90 minutes