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We had a wonderful experience the other night at the Palacio de Festivales (Performing Arts Center) in Santander watching the paintings of Joaquin Sorolla come to life.  Sorolla was a prolific Spanish painter from the late 19th/early 20th century whose close attention to and appreciation of light in his paintings is quite special.  Here is an example of what I will call a typical painting of his.  If you have been to any important art museums in the world, you have probably seen his work before:

Sorolla Beach

A summery beach scene with great light

His colorful and evocative work was brought literally to life by the Spanish National Ballet in their production appropriately named “Sorolla”.  A spectacle of color and light, the dance production was based on a collection of paintings that Sorolla was commissioned to do by The Hispanic Society of America in New York.  The paintings were representative of many of the cultures and traditions of various parts of Spain.  Some are what people think of as typically Spanish like bullfighters and flamenco dancing.  Others were not stereotypical Spain, many from Northern Spain, quite different than “typical” Spain.

Here are the paintings that the dance production was based on and my loose translation of the titles and an explanation where necessary followed by an image from the dance production that went with the painting if I could find one:

  • “Castilla: la fiesta del pan” (1913) –  Castilla: the celebration of the bread

La Fiesta del Pan Joaquin Sorolla

I could not find a perfect dance scene picture for this one but remember a dance with baskets and bread, here is one that at least fits the costumes:

balet sorolla fiesta pan

  • “Sevilla: Los nazarenos” (1914) – Sevilla: the nazarenes (typical costumes worn during Holy week processions)


This one was obvious and an awesome dance with the great costumes and dancing that started with them on the ground laying down in a bed of fogginess.:

Balet Los Nazarenos

  • “Aragón: La jota” (1914) – Aragon: The jota ( a typical dance in much of Northern Spain especially)

Sorolla La Jota

I am not exactly sure if these pictures are of the dance that goes with this painting but it was awesome none the less, very acrobatic:

balet sorolla la jota

balet sorolla la jota2

  • “Navarra: El concejo del Roncal” (1914) – Navarra: The counil of Roncal

Sorolla El Concejo del Roncal

This painting was not represented by a dance.

  • “Guipúzcua: Los bolos” (1914)  – Guipuzcoa: The bowls (bowling with wooden bowls and balls is very typcial of Northern Spain.  In Cantabria it is a professional sport.)

sorolla los bolos

This dance represented a typical dance from the Basque country, not really the bowling.

balet sorolla los bolos

  • “Andalucía: El encierro” (1914) – Andalucia: the roundup (of the bulls)  – this is also what the running of the bulls is called, an “encierro”, like the best known one in Pamplona, but there are many others

Sorolla El Encierro

The dance that went with it involved a lot of cane weilding and tapdancing, very lively and loud (and enjoyable):

balet sorolla encierro

  • “Sevilla: el baile” (1915)  – Sevilla: the dance

Sorolla El Baile

This dance was awesome, lots of dancers and lots of flare:

balet sorolla el baile balet sorolla el baile2

balet sorolla el baile

  • “Sevilla: Los toreros” (1915) – Sevilla: the bullfighters

Sorolla los toreros

Lots of bullfighting moves of course…

balet sorolla los toreros balet sorolla los toreros

Sorolla la romeria

This was a great dance accompanied with bagpipe music (if not live like a lot of the flamenco music in the rest of the production).

balet sorolla romeria chicas balet sorolla romeria

  • “Cataluña: El pescado” (1915) – Cataluña: the fish

Sorolla El pescado

Not sure this is right either but I think it is where it fit in the program.  A great solo dance:

balet sorolla baile solo

  • “Valencia: Las grupas” (1916) – Valencia: the hind quarters (literally but figuratively referring to the beauty of the decorations of the horses in procession from the fields in Valencia)

Sorolla las grupas

Beautiful dancing with lots of plays of light on the dresses of the dancers:

Sorolla  las grupas

  • “Extremadura: El mercado'(1917) – Extremadura: the market (notice the iberian pigs at the market, the ones that one of Spain´s most emblematic foods comes from, Jamon Iberico de Pata Negra

Sorolla el mercado

Here is the market goers dance, no pigs…

balet sorolla el mercado

  • “Elche: El palmeral’ (1918-1919) – Elche: the palm grove

Sorolla el palmeral

Unfortunately I dont´have  a pic of the solo dancer that did a piece with a basket of palm dates (the fruit from the date palms in the painting)

  • “Ayamonte. La pesca del atún” (1919) – Ayamonte: the tuna catch ( a yearly ritual in much of Spain as schools of Blue fin Tuna make their way all the way around Spain from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic to the Cantabrian Sea)

Sorolla la pesca del atun

A dance done by two couples with great live singing, Spanish guitar and cajon (box percussion):

balet sorolla pesca del atun

You can read a bit more about the idea of the piece and the performance here. If you ever have a chance to see the performance I highly recommend it.  My wife and I are not ballet people (she is a musicals freak but that is another story), but this was really spectacular.  Technically the dancers might not have been perfect all of the time (I´m sure any Russian would have criticized), but there was a lot going on and really big heavy costumes many times not just leotards and tutus.

Excellent.  Excellent.  Go if you ever can.