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El Amor Brujo [1954, Chicago, St. Alphonsus Theatre]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0211
Run Time
0h 23m 55s
Date Produced
"El Amor Brujo" is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page in 1954, based on the orchestral piece/one act ballet by Manuel de Falla and Martinez Sierra. It was premiered in Chicago at the St. Alphonsus Theatre on December 12, 1954 by the Ballet Guild of Chicago. It was later performed again on tour in the 1970s. This film appears to represent a dress rehearsal of the original version, filmed in December 1954; the film canister label notes that this rehearsal included music, scenery, and costumes, but no lighting effects. Barbara Steele dances the role of Candelas, Carol Lawrence dances as Lucia, Kenneth Johnson is "The Spectre," and Peter Reilly performs the role of Carmelo.
The film opens with a view of a stage, with the curtain (featuring a painting) remaining down while the orchestra plays an introduction. When the curtain goes up, the stage appears strewn with bodies, asleep in a gypsy camp. Then a man in all white (presumably The Spectre) enters and gingerly makes his way around the bodies. As he exits, Candelas awakens and sees him reappear far upstage, only to see him vanish and reappear elsewhere several times. She rouses Carmelo and tries to show him the ghost, but when he fails to see The Spectre, Carmelo attempts to comfort her as the rest of the slumberers begin to stir. Then, Candelas begins a solo expressing her frustration and despair while a female singer begins the corresponding opera solo; the others look on. Once she completes the solo, the rest comfort her and The Spectre reappears. He performs a solo that scares many of the onlookers away, actively haunting a distraught Candelas. The men remaining then arise and try to ward him off as an ensemble, but they are unsuccessful; the women join them and Candelas is pulled back and forth between Carmelo and The Spectre until the latter finally exits and the others collapse to the ground. Candelas then dances another lament, joined by two of the bystanders, and then all (including Carmelo) comfort her as The Spectre flashes in and out again. The group dances an ensemble lament while Carmelo supports Candelas's heavy form in a limp pas de deux. Carmelo then places Candelas at center and forms a circle around her with the others; all crouch and the men take turns with her at rising and falling back down, as if to the chimes of a clock. After awhile, women slowly enter from offstage. They begin an ensemble lament of their own, lead by Candelas at center; the men sit in their circle and respond. Then, the men stand up and the dancers split into groups by gender, continuing to dance as an ensemble. The Spectre once again comes in and out, haunting Candelas even as Carmelo tries to protect her; the ensemble weaves into patterns, sometimes breaking off into couples, and circles around the central couple. After one last appearance by The Spectre in which he takes Candelas into his arms, all collapse to the ground. While they remain in this state, Lucia enters and is saddened by what she sees. All then slowly arise and exit sadly as Lucia, too, tries to comfort her friend Candelas. She then sends the couple away, hatching a plan of her own while performing a solo dance. She catches the attention of The Spectre, who enters to watch her several times; unbeknownst to him, Carmelo and Candelas watch while hidden on the other side of the stage. They return and Carmelo dances briefly with Lucia but she then sends them away again and The Spectre reappears. The two dance an increasingly intimate pas de deux in which Lucia seduces The Spectre. When Candelas, who is still watching, sees the two embrace, she becomes angry. This anger allows her to face The Spectre and push him away. This finally seems to break the spell, causing The Spectre to retreat and wither away. Lucia beckons Candelas and Carmelo back together, and calls the others to witness their new freedom and happiness. When all arrive, the group dances victoriously as an ensemble, also splitting into couples dancing in unison. All then sit on the ground to enjoy a quick dance by a trio of three women, which is followed by more ensemble dancing for the finale. As everyone strikes their final pose, the curtain drops and the film ends.
Additional Credit
de Falla, Manuel (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Van Grove, Isaac (music)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Steele, Barbara (is performer)
Lawrence, Carol (is performer)
Johnson, Kenneth (is performer)
Reilly, Peter (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)