Arts Centre – Hamer Hall – 21-23 October 2016
Paying homage to six of her biggest influences, Sara Baras’ Voces is a series of short performances punctuated by recordings of short monologues from each of these artists delivered in Spanish. Six panels displaying the faces of these artists line the stage, each of which is given a spotlight before their corresponding performances.
Baras is undoubtedly talented. Her footwork is impressively precise, and she demonstrates masterful technique in the stillness of her upper body as she taps increasingly faster in her signature style. However, she does not deliver much beyond this. There is no story, and contradictory to Baras’ selected Antonio Gades monologue recording which discusses dance as an outlet of emotion, there is no emotion in Baras’ dancing. Her performance is a celebration of her technical skill showmanship rather than an expression of emotion.
Costuming and lighting decisions are frequently questionable, including the all-black suits against the black set, and the inexplicable blue lighting near the beginning of the performance. Baras’ strength does not lie here.
Baras clearly draws a crowd of adoring fans
With Baras’ fast pace and the rhythmic beat of the cajón, the performance is almost more of an auditory experience than a visual one. The rich, almost uncomfortably raspy vocals from Rubio De Pruna, Miguel Rosendo and Israel Fernández complement Baras’ performance.
Baras’ style and the intimate nature of the audience engagement seems incongruous with both the attempted show format and the choice of venue. Spanish speakers in the audience engage with Baras and her dance partner Jose Serrano throughout the performance, responding positively to moments of intimacy in particular. Excited cheers and exclamations in Spanish pepper the show. In one moment of physical closeness between Serrano and Baras, an audience member shouts out excitedly in Spanish. I learn that this loosely translates to “that’s hot!” An eruption of laughter from the stalls shows the audience’s support of this informal sentiment.
Although well-received by her adoring Spanish-speaking fans, Voces is not particularly accessible to a mainstream, non-Spanish-speaking audience. With each monologue delivered in Spanish, all vocals delivered in Spanish, and no narrative tying the segments together, the performance relies on the audience’s familiarity with the art form. Given the nature of the art form, this performance would also arguably be much better suited to a smaller, informal venue.