Can contemporary dance ‘steal’ followers from football and transform them into its audience? Premiered in 2015 at Fira Tàrrega as an outdoors spectacle, La Partida is Vero Cendoya’s bold attempt to engage a new audience for dance, by adapting the king of sports’ codes and ritual into choreography. Dancer, choreographer, actor and illustrator Cendoya always seeks to find a common ground between disciplines and styles in her pieces. Inspired by the film L’Arbitro by Paolo Zucca and using texts by Eduardo Galeano, La Partida brings together, poetically and buoyantly, original music by Adele Madau played live by a brass band, and participants who embody the followers.
The electrifying buzz and thrill of stadiums before a match fill the theatre as the five male footballers of one team and the five female dancers of the other are announced. The game kicks off and confrontation triggered in beautiful harmony. Men kick a real ball, women an imaginary one; the feminist vindication bubbles up. There are moments that recall Jerome Robbins’s Jets vs Sharks: races from one side to the other, acrobatic duets burst seeking a goal. The playful choreography is enhanced by the stark and effective lighting design. From cartoonish to melodramatic, the tone shifts with every move, but the hilarious bits are saved for the referee and his Almodóvarian solos. Jon López’s with his Greco-like figure epitomises Galeano’s description of the referee as an ‘abominable tyrant with operatic flourish’.
In this festive atmosphere, Cendoya makes her point without being dogmatic. For instance, when one of the dancers feeds her baby, we hear the infamous declarations of a Spanish female CEO: ‘I prefer not to hire mothers’. Cendoya overlaps bits of daily life, humour, dance, sport, words in a feminised game; an epic gathering in which confrontation vanishes to be replaced by a mutual acceptance of who we are.