By Chenoah Eljan
MATADOR sabor de amor (taste of love) is a series of transitions interspersed with brief dance numbers, matter-of-fact corset removals, and the soundtrack of a Zumba class.
The show is performed in “The Vault”, a 20-meter geodesic dome intended for circus and physical theatre productions. It’s a utilitarian space lacking all the pizzaz and glamour of Spiegel tent. Which is a real shame for MATADOR sabor de amor because simple things like ambience really could have assisted to take this show to the next level.
At the start of the show a voiceover tells us “Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.” This is the first, and perhaps only, clue as to what this show thinks it’s about. Although, towards the end, there is a rousing number about acceptance and self-love and sexual fluidity. The audience loves that message, but set against the first statement which is again repeated at the end of the show, one can’t help but question whether sexual fluidity is somehow being equated with ‘darkness’ and that doesn’t sit quite right.
Instead, the intention is clearly to titillate with lingerie-clad women and men showing us almost all of their beautiful, and beautifully varied, bodies and sultry expressions. Nearly every brief dance sequence ends with a highly sexualised, but never fully committed to, embrace. There is no slow build, no anticipation, no unsatiated hunger. And thus titillation is never quite achieved.
The show is comprised of many many very brief dance sequences, as if curated exclusively with the TikTok scroll mentality in mind as though the audience couldn’t possibly sustain its intention for more than 1-2 minutes at a time. It’s a lost opportunity, especially for those who came to see dance, because you spend more time watching performers go on and off stage than dance. The audience is hungry for more – not more costume changes or more moving from one place to another – simply put: more choreography, more dance. No sequence lasts even an entire song. Just as you begin to feel any sort of emotional connection to a dance it ends, when it should have gone on for a further six minutes or more.
This show is full of sultry expressions and come-hither looks. It’s to be expected and not out of place and yet amongst it all is the magnetic Amarah Radford whose expressive face makes us really believe she is having the time of her life. It is hard to take your eyes off her, she is performing with every inch of her body and makes a connection with the audience that is impossible to resist. She makes it fun because she’s having fun. Radford is the only one who manages to make her obligatory corset removal enticing, and she does this with timing and her animated facial expressions. Her timing and technique are excellent, although she is matched well by the other female dancers. Jessica Robbins does the aerial tricks and she is capable and at home doing them. Of the male performers, Mario Acosta-Cevallos is the most skilled dancer and a pleasure to watch. And finally, it would be wrong not to mention Josephine Lopes, whose Latin moves had the audience transfixed.
There is no narrative. Dancers are in cages and then out of cages, tied and then untied, stabbed and then alive again, embracing and then angry, and then embracing again. It is, however, perhaps exactly as intended – a taste of love. A collage of all the ways that love can be: between women and men, men and men, women and women, bulls and ballerinas; sexy, frightening, angry, unpredictable, routine, fast, slow, loud, quiet, and a little more of the in-between times than we’d all like.