A flavour of the favelas

20 January 2020

When Director Jo Davies and Movement Director Denni Sayers wanted to bring a flavour of South American dance to WNO’s production of Carmen, they probably didn’t expect to find an expert so close to home. Dancer Josie Sinnadurai, who has performed all over the world, actually hails from Brecon in South Wales – a mere 50 miles from WNO’s Cardiff Bay base.

Dance is an important part of the storytelling in this production and along with Latin and Ballroom champion Carmine de Amicis, Josie brings her Flamenco and contemporary dance experience to the Company. The two dancers appear throughout the opera, performing breathtaking routines and also appearing in various other guises as the action progresses. We spoke to Josie about her experience of performing in the production.

Growing up in Brecon, when did you first discover a love of dance?
‘I don’t actually remember this story, I was too young, but my parents tell me that it was when they took me to see a Flamenco show in London when I was about three years old. I was wriggling around in my seat and desperate to get up and dance in the aisle so they thought ‘well she clearly likes this’ and sent me to Flamenco classes. I started ballet very shortly after.’

So you were inspired by Flamenco at a very young age?
‘It was the reason I started dancing and it’s always been something that seemed to suit me. I can be quite headstrong and forward sometimes and I think that suits Flamenco because so much of the performance is about how you do something, not what you do, so you have to have absolute conviction. It’s also totally different from most other dance styles in that the music is often semi-improvised and sometimes the first time you meet your musicians will be just before you go on stage together! Flamenco bridges the gap between dance and music because we use our feet and body percussively while still moving as a dancer and we communicate with our musicians about what we’re going to do next using a series of signals known to all Flamenco artists. No two performances are ever the same.’

How have you found performing in Carmen?
‘It’s been a real change from the majority of the work I’ve been doing for the past few years. Funnily enough I don’t actually dance any Flamenco in this show as it’s set in Latin America so it wouldn’t make sense for there to be Flamenco. But it’s been really fun trying out some Latin dance styles and has given me the chance to reconnect with my ballet and contemporary training too because that’s what Carmine (my dance partner at WNO) and I do for our daily warm-up.’

What is your favourite part of the opera?

‘Well of course the big dance number I get to do with Carmine at the beginning of Act Two, especially the very end when the music speeds up and we speed up to match it, with Carmine twirling me all over the place until I can hardly see by the time we finish. I also really enjoy the fight scene in Act One. Little inside secret – I have to do all the screaming during that fight because Carmen needs to look after her voice so I find it very amusing that I’m shrieking my head off while she’s completely silent.’

What would you say to encourage someone who has never been to opera before to come and see Carmen?
‘I always tell anyone who’s new to opera just to think about the fact that the singers don’t wear microphones and that there’s a whole orchestra between them and the audience, and then listen to the amount of volume they manage to create. It’s astounding. This particular interpretation of Carmen I think has been done in a very believable and realistic way so that Carmen is not this mystical gypsy woman with apparently magical powers of seduction, but rather a woman wanting to be able to make independent decisions about her own life in a world dominated by men.’  

Carmen is on tour until 7 May.