La Brujas de Salem
The World Premiere of Las Brujas de Salem (The Witches of Salem) a Flamenco Ballet inspired by The Crucible by Arthur Miller, featured Manolete, one of the greatest Flamenco dancers and choreographers of our time, and mentor to company Founder/Artistic Director Ilisa Rosal. A year in the making, and interpreted by 35 musicians and dancers from North and South America and Spain, this full-evening work explores themes of political manipulation, blind panic, fanaticism and alienation that are as relevant and engaging today as when Arthur Miller first wrote this play.
The belief in witchcraft from the Middle Ages through the end of the 19th Century in Europe set the stage for this 17th Century atrocity in America that perpetrated the same type of manipulations, executions and torture as the Spanish Inquisition.
Ms. Rosal travelled to Salem, Massachusetts in order to research this project. She incorporated many new characters, whose stories add depth and color to this mesmerizing work, sending a powerful message, while demonstrating the universality of the art form of Flamenco. It is at the same time exquisitely beautiful, powerful, passionate, provocative, suspenseful, sensual and spiritual.
Combining the company’s partnership with Manolete as its mentor with this powerful theatrical work inspired by real events in American history, as well as relating to the history of flamenco itself, is an important step towards solidifying two of the most vital elements of the company and its work.
The powerful themes of paranoia, fear of the supernatural, jealousy, revenge, greed, cruelty, hypocrisy and love, forgiveness, heroism and courage are as relevant today as ever, and they are relevant worldwide.
ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS:
In the harsh winter of 1962, Indian wars, political unrest and old disputes between neighbors produced a tension that evoked the blind rage of the people of Salem, Massachusetts. The rural and fanatic old guard was set against the new, more liberal families. When commerce, a new world view, and the desire for individual rights threatened to overshadow the control the old guard Puritans had over the people and economy of Salem, an opportunity was seen in the first “outcries” of a few young girls. At first, these girls claimed to be afflicted by witches in order to hide their clandestine experiments with the occult, and unacceptable singing and dancing in the repressed society of the Puritans. The old guard, acting in collusion and consumed by greed, envy and pride, had no respect for the dignity and value of human life, as they cued the girls to accuse certain people and families.
What began as the unwitting sport of the slave Tituba and some children, turned into the witch hysteria that was to become known as one of the most infamous chapters in American History.
Public opinion only changed when the hysteria reached the highest levels of society. In May 1693, 18 months after the witch-hunt began in January 1692, Governor William Phipps pardoned all of the accused. By then, nineteen had been hanged, one pressed to death, and three women, one man, and several infants had died in prison. An untold number died later of illness and injury contracted in prison, where the conditions were horrific. In all, a total of two hundred were arrested and two hundred more accused.
Four years later, the judges signed a confession of error, and asked to be forgiven. Fourteen years later, Ann Putnam, Jr., one of the most passionate of the accusers, admitted that they had been misled. The Salem witch-hunt of 1692 represents one of the grimmest events in early American History. It is the story of innocent people caught in a web of intrigue from which they could not extricate themselves.