Review: My Name is Not Carmen! (Show One Productions and Toronto International Flamenco Festival)

My Name is Not Carmen! offers catchy flamenco music and talented dancing

When I heard that My Name is Not Carmen! was a fusion of flamenco, poetry and music, this was not what I expected. If you’re like me, when you think of flamenco music, you think of bright colours, catchy music and the kind of dancing that you’d love to join in with, if only you didn’t have two left feet. But this show was anything but.

The production features Yana Maizel and tells her story of her journey from Russia to Toronto and then to Spain, although the audience is never told why or how. She begins the show tap dancing and then moves on to flamenco dancing as the show progresses and the music starts to pick up. Parts of the poetry components were in Russian and French, which I found to be confusing since most people in the audience probably weren’t trilingual.

During the middle of the show, when all the house lights came on inside the theatre (and when several people left because they thought the show was over!), Maizel wondered aloud why her name is not Carmen and laments how much easier life would be for her if only her name was Carmen. She also points to various places around the stage, which I assumed to symbolize different countries, and would continuously repeat “Not from here or here. Or here or here.” These confused ramblings puzzled me because I wasn’t sure what they meant, if they symbolized something or had a deeper meaning that I was unable to grasp.

The most enjoyable part of the show was by far the catchy flamenco music. I’ll admit it, I’m not an expert in music, but it seemed like I could hear the same type of music at any number of salsa bars around the city. There was a funny moment when Maizel was dancing up a storm and one of the two singers came over and tried to dance with her as he was singing. Her facial expressions were funny as she tried to shimmy away from him and continue to do her own thing. I also have to commend Maizel’s dancing. The way she moved so perfectly to the music showed that she is a very talented dancer.

Although I noticed a lot of people who laughed during the funny parts and enthusiastically clapped when it was over, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who looked bored. The man who was sitting in front of me fell asleep several times and another couple in front of me giggled during the entire show.

It certainly felt long and drawn out, especially since there was no intermission to break things up. As my companion for the evening put it, “If there was an intermission, no one would have come back!” Perhaps this was true and in my case, it definitely was. But if you love flamenco dancing and the music that goes with it, then you might enjoy this production a lot more than I was able to.

-My Name is Not Carmen! plays at the Jane Mallett Theatre (27 Front E) until November 9, 2012
-The show runs from November 8 & November 9 with shows at 8pm
-Ticket prices are $35-$65
-Tickets are available at 416-366-7723 or online