Transgender tragedy dances into Birmingham

Published: 9 September 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

Transgender tragedy: Mariposa Credit: Joe Armitage

Spanish-born choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra and his DeNada Dance Theatre are to return to the UK with Pons Guerra’s latest work Mariposa, a transgender tragedy inspired by Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Carlos Pons Guerra is “one of the UK’s leading emerging queer voices in contemporary ballet”. Hailing from Gran Canaria, he trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds and the Royal Conservatoire for Dance of Madrid before founding DeNada Dance Theatre in 2012.

In Mariposa—which means 'butterfly' in Spanish—the action takes place in a Caribbean port. A rent boy and a foreign sailor fall in love in this queer take on Madame Butterfly.

The cast features Leonora Stapleton, in the original cast and associate choreographer of both The Lion King and Tarzan on Broadway, who plays Gertrudis, the dockland brothel owner.

Harry Alexander, winner in 2017 of best emerging artist in the UK Critics’ Circle national dance awards, performs the title role of Mariposa. Preston, his sailor, will be danced by Stan West who toured with Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and performed in Marianne Elliot’s Olivier and Tony Award-winning production of Angels in America for the National Theatre.

Corey Annand, who created the title role in Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl, joins the cast as Kate, Preston’s wife, as does Michael Marquez, former dancer with Phoenix Dance Theatre, as the Orisha deity.

Mariposa transports Puccini’s libretto to the turbulent, socio-political repression of post-revolution Cuba. The production is “an exploration of what we are ready to sacrifice in order to be loved and accepted”.

The dance opera is set to an original score by three-time winner of the Spanish MAX Awards for the Performing Arts, Luis Miguel Cobo, with libretto by French-Indian writer Karthika Nair. Costume and set designs are by Ryan Dawson Laight while Barnaby Booth will design the lighting.

Mariposa will have its world premiere at DanceXchange at Birmingham Hippodrome, part of Birmingham International Dance Festival, on Thursday 30 September and Friday 1 October. It will then go to the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds on Tuesday 12 October and The Lowry, Salford Quays on Sunday 16 January. Further performances will be scheduled for 2022.