Tampa City Ballet presentation of "Carmen" calls attention to domestic violence against women

For Tampa City Ballet founder and artistic director Paula Nuñez, dance should be able to make a statement on social problems and evolve with the times.
The ballet company will do both with their upcoming presentation “Carmen 2022,”  a modern version of Georges Bizet’s classic that will raise awareness about domestic violence against women and transform ballet into a multidisciplinary artistic collaboration.

Performances are June 4th and 5th in the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

“‘Carmen’ was an opera in the 1800s; in the 1900s, it became a ballet, a suite, for the first time,” Nuñez says. “My thought was what will ‘Carmen’ be in 2022? How can we relate ‘Carmen’ to the present time, this strong story? She was killed by her husband. How many women in the world today are killed by domestic violence? I like always to have a sense that I am doing something with dance and relating dance to a social issue, something we can start a conversation about. I like to create context, not something abstract. So I thought we can collaborate with others to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence through the lens of the central character of the gypsy Carmen.” 

The presentation portrays Carmen as a strong, steadfast modern woman who would prefer death to living under a man’s rule, according to a Tampa City Ballet press release. This modern version of the ballet will not use the traditional costumes and flamenco dresses historically associated with “Carmen.” Still, the polka dots that adorned those dresses will have a significant symbolic role.

“We started to research where these polka dots on the flamenco skirts came from,” Nuñez says. “Historically, the gypsies sewed small round mirrors into their dresses to ward off the evil eye. So the polka dots we use this symbol to represent the lives of women who were lost to domestic violence. In our last act, every dancer is dressed with polka dots. We have this juxtaposition of this happiness, this music, because the music in ‘Carmen’ is incredibly beautiful, and at the same time we have the situation, this conflict, and Carmen being killed.” 

The performance will bring together six women from different artistic and professional backgrounds: Nuñez, guest choreographer Bliss Kohlmyer, multidisciplinary artist Elizabeth Indianos, opera singer Daniella Mass, multimedia artist Jennifer Petuch and psychiatric consultant Dr. Marguerite Pinard. 

“This is a collaboration,” Nuñez says. “This is dance, but we collaborate with new disciplinary artists. It is important to show dance is opening to new collaborations and evolving.”

The modern retelling of “Carmen” at the Straz marks the Tampa City Ballet’s return to a traditional theater setting for the first time since the onset of COVID. Over the last two years, the company produced its first film, “102 Degrees,” which depicted the impact of a prior pandemic, the 1918 Spanish Flu, on Ybor City cigar factory workers. The Tampa City Ballet also put on “INTERSTICES” at the historic Cuban Club in Ybor.

Performances of "Carmen 2022" are June 4th at 7 p.m. and June 5th at 3 p.m. in the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets begin at $68.75 and are available through the Straz Center box office 800 - 955 - 1045 (toll free) & (813) 229 - 7827 or online at
https://www.strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/2122_Rentals/Carmen2022



 

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.