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Dance Review Subtle subversion

SUSAN DARLINGTON sees a nuanced reinterpretation of Beauty and the Beast as a feminist fable

TORO: Beauty and the Bull
Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds/Touring

THE DENADA dance theatre company is an international group of dancers, most of whom are of Hispanic or Latino descent and their mission is to promote cultural, gender and sexual equality and diversity through a unique mix of contemporary dance, classical ballet, flamenco and Latino dance.

Thus it proves in TORO: Beauty and the Bull. Feminist re-readings of fairytales are now well established, but the company pushes the boundaries further by transforming the fairytale Beauty And The Beast into a a dystopian moral narrative for other oppressed groups.

It opens in a prostitute’s parlour, with four men fighting for the attentions of The Girl (Emma Walker). Indifferent to how they use her body, they pull her across the stage and hump her as she lies inert, making bored seductive gestures to the Latino music.

She’s brought out of her apathy by the appearance of The Bull (Marivi Da Silva), with whom she bonds over their shared victimisation. They find acceptance with a circus sideshow that’s populated by “dragimals” — a troupe of animals in drag who wear bondage-style face masks and nipple-covering leather straps — until a group of matadors arrive.

In a production of surface humour and a dreamlike atmosphere, choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra combines elements of contemporary dance, ballet and flamenco to subtly question those in power. The half-naked men wrestling over The Girl exhibit repressed homosexuality, often ignoring her to demonstrate their strength with hip thrusts and jerking arm movements. Their clucking communication also queries who’s the real monster.

Though overtly sexual and at times aggressively performed, there are also moments of great tenderness. The scene in which The Girl connects with The Bull, stroking her face and body, and the one in which they find refuge with the dragimals, their bodies orgiastically moving as one, show an oasis of compassion in shared community.

Wisely avoiding a fairytale ending, the production offers a reminder of the need to keep vigilant against victimisation and oppression in all its manifestations.

Tours until April 27, details:


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