Pros: A powerful performance that grips your heart and leaves you enthralled.
Cons: Those expecting traditional fado only will be in for a bit of a surprise.
Before this show I had never heard of fado before. All I knew was that I was going to see a modern dance performance. Traditional fado, I discovered, actually has nothing to do with dance. It is a musical art form traditionally practiced in Lisbon. Much to my surprise, the show began with a short performance by a quartet of musicians and singers from this city. Fado has a similar sound to other Mediterranean folk music. The singers and musicians were wonderful, but not what I expected. They also performed in the intervals between the dancing, which made the show feel rather disjointed, as their sound did not fit the mood of the dance. Once the dancers took the stage all I wanted was to watch them.
Modern dance is always a surprise: you never really know what you can expect when you go to see a show. Yet, I can honestly say that Nuno Silva’s A Darker Shade of Fado will stick with me for a long time. It was evocative, thrilling, and moving. The traditional fado music was blended and remoulded into something new: sometimes dark and sinister, sometimes light and playful. The drama takes place between a woman who owns a possessed guitar, and a man who fixes them. Between them and their burgeoning love stands Spirit, whose only goal is to keep the would-be lovers apart. Performed by Mr. Silva, Spirit immediately commanded the stage. Dressed in black tattered robes, he writhed and thrashed in a frantic dance of a tortured soul.
The leaping and jumping was impressive, but also a common, and anticipated, feature in the contemporary dance vocabulary. What made me sit up was when Mr. Silva started to sing. At first I thought he was lip-syncing, but quickly realised that it was his voice I was hearing. It was haunting, and it actually made my skin tingle! More impressive was the fact that he wasn’t even out of breath after his intense dance performance.
Woman, performed by Stephanie Dufresne, is the owner of the guitar wherein Spirit dwells. Her technique is fluid and articulate. She has a way of moving that made it look as if she were floating through the air. Matthew Lackford is the Maker, and the hero of the story. He was fantastic to watch, and his movements were a perfect counterpart to Mr. Silva’s ominous Spirit. Sabio Janiak performs the Musician, and actually plays all the music live on stage. He appeared to be able to play almost any instrument—electronic and acoustic. I thought he was incredible!
There was a point during the dancing where I was no longer just critiquing the show, but I became fully drawn into to the story. I was actually disappointed to have an intermission! Still, it was a dinner show and the food was delicious.
The costuming and set are all very minimal. The costumes throughout the show are simple and each describes the character clearly without being distracting. The set itself is mostly bare, and the spaces are defined by the sound effects—be it the ocean or ticking clocks. The focus is clearly on the dance, and nothing else.
A Darker Shade of Fado is definitely a must see if you are a dance lover. My only critique is that the traditional fado distracted from the dance performance, but this show is worth catching nonetheless!
Director: Nuno Silva
Choreographer: Dam Van Huynh
Musical Director: Abel Arez
Producer: Sarah Trist
Booking Information: This show is touring the country until 25th June 2014.