Gran Bolero

Jesús Rubio Gamo

An extended version of a duet that Jesús Rubio Gamo made in 2017, Gran Bolero elaborates on a classic motif of attraction and repulsion, holding on and letting go. Ravenous, delirious but never belligerent, twelve dancers passionately circle each other, propelled by the slowly unfolding melody of Ravel’s Bolero, stretched to an hour.

Initially, they stride collectively across an empty stage. Only now and then does a dancer step out of joint, often pirouetting themselves back in. Parallel to a quickening pace, duets grow into polyamorous encounters of bodies chasing and pulling each other apart. And when a heteronormative standoff intervenes, women and men on either side, it reminds us of less reductive alternatives to that binary.

The stripping of clothes almost goes unnoticed, until exposed torsos suddenly become apparent – another classic image in anticipation of a grand finale that draws in the crowd for one loud, frenzied celebration of love.

Bas Blaasse

Like the driving rhythms of Ravel’s musical masterpiece, Jesús Rubio Gamo’s Gran Bolero builds towards an explosive and life-affirming conclusion.

It all begins with a lone dancer standing centre stage – the apex of a triangle of shadows. Eleven others join him one by one, walking and weaving complex orbits around him. They merge and diverge from tightly packed shoals to looser pelotons, while bursts of running, hopping and clapping capture the music’s mounting energy. Individuals and couples break away for mini duets and trios – their turns, lifts and melting falls becoming increasingly reckless and abandoned.

Launching themselves at one another, the dancers spin and toss like rag dolls, losing clothes and inhibitions as the mood gets increasingly raucous. The Bolero becomes a battle cry as they line up and belt it out in front of us. We stand and sing along – an act of group catharsis after two long years of loneliness.

Karina Buckley

With Gran Bolero, Jesús Rubio Gamo pays beautiful tribute to the works that came before him, from Ravel to Béjart, yet still manages to make his mark. The twelve dancers move like a perfectly synced swarm, regularly bursting off into duets and trios to explore the myriad of ways in which we give in to one another. Each connection, whether between men, women, or both, whether tender or forceful, strengthens the resolve that unites them. They love with abandon until their bodies exhaust, calling on us, through song, to commit to this unguarded way of living freely and earnestly. Their eyes fill with pride as more and more join this impromptu choir.

This piece embodies the richness of collaboration: with the history of music and dance, and between artists of distinct identities. It’s wonderful that the people of Elefsina, gathered in the outdoor amphitheatre built on the ruins of the city’s old olive mills, also got to witness it.

Sedera Ranaivoarinosy

For almost 100 years, Maurice Ravel’s Boléro has cast a spell with its slow, steady pace building to a frenzied, intoxicating finale. Replicating that climax in movement is no small task, requiring stamina and constant reinvention to hold the audience’s attention – but it’s a challenge choreographer Jesús Rubio Gamo has grasped with both hands.

What started as a duet in 2017, has grown into a work for 12 dancers who embark on a journey that’s the very definition of cathartic. From a fairly pedestrian opening, walking in circles to a mind-numbing drone, the piece gently gathers momentum before running headlong into unfettered wild abandon. Layers of clothing are stripped off, dancers are lifted high in the air, audience members are encouraged to sing along, and the whole thing ends in a mass of naked, sweaty happiness.

Quite what Ravel would make of it is anyone’s guess, but Rubio Gamo matches his passion every step of the way.

Kelly Apter