Three current NSCD students and three alumni are set to perform a reimagining of Astor Piazzolla's tango-opera Maria de Buenos Aires (Maria from Buenos Aires) in Leeds later this month. Unusual for its emphasis on dance as opposed to singing, the work is choreographed and directed by NSCD alumnus Carlos Pons Guerra and forms part of this year’s Leeds Opera Festival organised by Northern Opera Group.
Carlos Pons Guerra’s work has been performed across the globe at major theatres including The Joyce Theatre (NYC), Sadler’s Wells (London), and the Chennai Music Academy (India). Born in Gran Canaria, Spain, Pons Guerra began his dance training at the Royal Conservatoire for Dance in Madrid before gaining a place on the undergraduate degree here at Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
Music for the opera will be conducted by Natalia Luis-Bassa, an advocate for young musicians’ education who has previously worked with National Youth Orchestra and National Children’s Orchestra.
Dancers Anna Maria Ilieva Bilioni, Tony Polo, and Pablo Reyero all graduated from the BA course this year. Dancers Mairead Rutter, Giulia Carastro and Katy Marshall are all current students about to commence their third year of study at NSCD. Carlos Pons Guerra had previously crossed paths with Mairead, Giulia and Katy while creating choreography for their second year performance showcase, NEW GROUND, back in November 2022.
I am working with three current students with whom I worked on my commission for NEW GROUND.
We held auditions at NSCD and we had a lot of interest from students, and to be honest, it was a very tough call because there is so much talent! I had already worked with Giulia, Mairead and Katy, and I had seen huge potential in them as dancers from the onset. Each individual is very unique and has their own dance identity, but something I think they have in common is a really good technical understanding - a physicality that marries very well with theatricality, and above all, bravery and inquisitiveness.
Described as a 'heady invocation of life on the streets of Argentina', Maria de Buenos Aires is recommended for audiences aged 12+. Taking place in venues and communities across the city, this year's Opera Festival brings together outstanding local, national and international talent, foregrounding artists with Latin American heritage.
Carlos is no stranger to creating choreography influenced by different cultures around the world. His work has been performed at notable international festivals including Brighton International, International Dance Festival Birmingham, Gender Bender Festival in Bologna, Homotopia Festival Liverpool, and the International Dance Festival of Santo Domingo.
Since starting at NSCD (back in 2006!) I suppose I started asking myself what being Hispanic meant, as I’m from the Canary Islands, which is a bridge between the Latinx diaspora and Europe. Since graduating, I think all of my work in one way or another has been about asking what being Hispanic is, especially how it relates to gender and queerness.
María de Buenos Aires is a gem of an opera, it’s as surreal as you can get, and what I’m finding is that to direct it, you have to abandon yourself to its gorgeous absurdity and delectable symbolism.
From my perspective, María is all about how gender identity and sexuality are constructed in the Latinx world. The opera is transgressive, subverting Western classical musical forms and making them explode with tango. It’s a real mesh of identities and desires, deeply immersed in Hispanic culture, so it’s a real treat for me.
You can catch Maria de Buenos Aires at Leeds School of Arts from Wed 30 August - Sat 2 September 2023. Click here for tickets.