Intriguing Portrait of a Flamenco Dancer

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Sanchez, What’s Become of You? (questcequetudeviens?): Compagnie 111 – Aurélian Bory, Barbican Theatre, London, 30.01.2014 (JO’D)

Dancer: Stéphanie Fuster
Guitarist: José Sanchez
Singer: Alberto Garcia
Conceived, designed and directed by Aurélian Bory
Choreography: Stéphanie Fuster
Original music: José Sanchez
Lighting design: Arno Veyrat
Set: Pierre Dequivre, Arnaud Lucas
Sound engineer: Stéphane Ley
Costume designer: Sylvie Marcuci


‘It’s not a flamenco show,’ Companie 111 director, Aurélian Bory, said during the talk that followed the performance of What’s Become of You? (questcequetudeviens?) at the Barbican Theatre. He said it because the presence in this London International Mime Festival piece with a Spanish guitarist, Spanish singer, and a woman in heeled shoes wearing a long, red dress with flounces might give people the idea that it was. The woman is Stéphanie Fuster who, according to the programme, ‘discovered’ flamenco in Toulouse and went to live in Seville for eight years to practice it. Bory’s work, which usually takes space as its starting point, is this time a ‘portrait’ of Fuster as a dancer. (‘I don’t see the person; I see the dancer.’) Even so, she is a dancer performing, often at the very back of the stage, in a carefully designed (and completely amplified) space.

It is a space of cubes and rectangles: at the back on the left, something that looks like a large light box; at the back on the right, something that looks like a small Portakabin; in the middle, towards the front of the stage, something that looks like a shallow, empty, swimming pool. Into this space, from behind the Portakabin, the dancer walks. The steps she performs are at this point only suggestive of flamenco. They are accompanied by the sounds she makes with her mouth, or by the snapping of her fingers. In a moment of surreal humour, the dress itself (which is really a ‘mould’ made from resin) becomes a space she inhabits.

The dancer is next seen from inside the cabin, one section of which is of glass. The guitarist and singer, who have by now also made their appearance, can be heard from ‘off’ as Fuster goes through a prolonged, demanding flamenco practice session. The idea of the cabin, and of the dancer inside it, was the first that came to Bory when he began to think about the piece. A metaphor for Fuster herself, practicing in Seville, it is the most striking image of the work. Standing side-on to the audience, in clothes that look like practice clothes, the dancer repeats the steps as if in front of a mirror. The rhythm of her movements alternates between fast and slow. As the cabin is filled with steam and the glass mists up, as the light inside turns to red and the figure becomes a silhouette, there is a sense of a dancer rapt in her own performance and her own appraisal of it. (‘An art with which I can lose myself,’ is how Stéphanie Fuster described flamenco in the post-show talk.)

In the final section of the work the dancer, now wearing a short, black dress, steps into the ‘pool’. Slowly, it fills with water. For a flamenco dancer, Bory pointed out, the floor is the partner. His intention, here, was to create a space in which it is first of all difficult, and then impossible, to dance. Fuster’s taconazos now create spurts of water that reach almost to the front row of the audience. When she stands still the surface reflects her moving arms. Ultimately, inevitably, Fuster slips. That is what becomes of her. The piece ends with her lying, motionless, on her back in the water. It was not a ‘flamenco show’, but a young Spanish woman in the row in front of me cried ‘Olé! Olé! Olé!’ as she applauded.


John O’Dwyer