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Column: The magic of Aukeran

The Basque group Aukeran performed at the CCP auditorium as part of the ongoing Spanish festival.

Rosalinda L. Orosa

Traces of traditional or regional Basque dances were visible, and into these were infused ballet – the men executing tours en l’air and cabrioles – touches of jazz and modern techniques.

The program opened with nine dancers, three of them male, in blouses of white netting and layers of billowy skirts. They move in brisk unison on a semi-dark stage, with shafts of light overhead reaching the spectators, group patterns changing continuously.

Later, the dancers appeared with sticks they manipulated with deft, clever strokes, again creating intriguing visual patterns.Playing on a flute, a wooden xylophone, drums, a harmonium, and the Basque bagpipe dolcina, the five instrumenalists produced tantalizing music and pounding rhythms, while a woman singer wailed forcefully now and then.

The kaleidoscope figures moved against a stage set which looked like a weird, surrealist painting, this incessantly disappearing and reappearing to reveal the musicians. Two male dancers, armed with poles, engaged in a frenetic duel; a brief funeral episode had three males slowly bearing a fourth one aloft to the lugubrious beating of drums.

It was a non-stop performance, the dancers driven by typically Spanish spirit, fire and passion. What incredible vitality, vigor and stamina they demonstrated! Giving respite to the rest of the dancers were a highly balletic pas de deux and a solo by a male dancer performing against a backdrop of gracefully languid ballerinas in white.

The presentation went from peak to peak, with never a lagging moment.

Although Aukeran dances were far removed from flamenco, they nonetheless illustrated equally stunning footwork, particularly in the climactic finale with everyone dressed in black. Two male dancers provided the percussive accompaniment by tapping on two aluminum (?) boxes, their electrifying rhythms sending the pulses beating and the senses reeling.

To the compelling sounds, a male dancer performed on top of a small, square box, his nimble (and risky!) footwork including jumps and cabrioles on the circumscribed space. Two female dancers, one on each side of him, did their own astounding feats. The scene was devastating.

A huge, towering masked figure elaborately costumed, with the head of a snake atop his intricate headdress, suddenly entered. Was the bewildering image a beneficent augury?

Summing up, the integration of perpetual, propulsive movement, dramatic, haunting music, dazzling light and scenic effects created the magic that was Aukeran.

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