Compañía Nacional de Danza

Compañía Nacional de Danza, photo by Jesús Vallinas.

Compañía Nacional de Danza, photo by Jesús Vallinas.

The illustrious Compañía Nacional de Danza (CND), Spain’s national dance company, returns to Santa Barbara with a work that is a statement of its compelling artistic direction. Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures for two nights—March 6-7, both at 8 p.m. at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St.)—Johan Inger’s Carmen is a visionary retelling of mythic and universal elements of passion and violence.

This contemporary presentation of Carmen, a classic opera first performed in 1875, had its debut in 2015 and won the coveted Benois de la Danse prize for choreography in 2016. It tells the tale through the eyes of a child, with its heroine a courageous and modern woman, the mountains of Ronda reimagined as poor suburbs, the military now senior executives and the bullfighter recast as a movie star.

This Santa Barbara premiere marks one of only three cities in the U.S. presenting this magnificent story ballet.

Compañía Nacional de Danza, photo by Jesús Vallinas.

Compañía Nacional de Danza, photo by Jesús Vallinas.

When Inger was asked to create a new version of Carmen, himself being Swedish and Carmen a piece with a strong Spanish nature, he faced a challenge. But it was also a great opportunity. He strips tale to its most fundamental themes, introducing the perspective of a child to reveal the universal appeal of the story.

“There is a certain mystery within this character,” explains Inger. “It could be any kid; it could be Don José when he was a boy, and it could be a young Michaela or Carmen and José’s unborn child. It could even be ourselves, with our very first goodness wounded due to a violent experience that, though brief, has had a negative impact in our lives and our ability to interact with others forever.”

For tickets and more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or visit, or contact The Granada Theatre at 805/899-2222 or

In addition to the performances on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the company also presents, in collaboration with Gustafson Dance, a Community Dance Class with Compañía Nacional de Danza on Monday, March 5, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Gustafson Dance, 2285 Las Positas Rd. Observers are welcome. Call 805/563-3262 to register. 

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 2, 2018.