Robin Gilbert and Carlos Fittante in "Tigerlily and the Dragonfly". Photo: Julie Lemberger

What Do Bullfighting and Balinese Dance Have in Common? by Carlos Fittante

Recently, I took bullfighting lessons through my affiliation with Barbara Romero’s Danzas Españolas in New York City to strengthen my Spanish dance training and to incorporate some of this technique into my upcoming performances in BALAM’s Bali Tour 2010.

Audiences in Bali will see me integrate the bullfighter’s stance and walk, which is very distinctive, as well as use some of the bullfighter’s cape technique in Toshinori Hamada’s new duet, “Sunda Upasunda-NYC Brothers”, that will premiere August 3 in the Pura Desa of Kutuh on Ubud, Bali.

Studying under the tutelage of former professional bullfighter Elias Guzman, or “maestro” as I addressed him in our training sessions, I experienced an intense regimen of powerful and transformative exercises. These exercises not only required strength and agility, but also struck me as physical secrets with a power on “keeping the fear out” and developing agility, grace and assuredness to master the charging bull.

There was something monastic and Eastern in the maestro’s impassioned explanations of the bull’s psychology, the reasons behind the attire and even the hairstyle of the torero. All of this is not unlike the Baris or Balinese warrior dancer, who, for example, understands the significance of the fit of his sparkling headpiece, or the use of breath control during the dance, which is utilized in both movement techniques.

Maestro constantly impressed upon me the bullfighter’s need for aesthetics in all of the movements and poses made. This ability to link the harshness of reality to a nobler expression is also a concept found in Baris, the warrior, who uses an abstracted gestural language to intoxicate the viewer, even though he is capturing the ferocity and bravery of the psychology of battle. The Balinese dancer and the bullfighter are completely self-aware, as they delve into the unknown.

I look forward to sharing a touch of the ancient and deep tradition of the bullfighter’s spirit with the Balinese, whose lives are embedded in ritual and tradition. Their kinesthetic sensitivity and spiritual alertness will connect them to the beautiful movements of the torero and the Spanish dance techniques I will utilize in BALAM’s work. Olé!