Review – Rafael Amargo – Sadler’s Wells 2012 Flamenco Festival

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With Rafael Amargo the dance segment of the 2012 Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells came to an end. The night was artistically themed: the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca were celebrated in a show called “A Poet in New York.” However, there was no getting away from the fact that the person most truly celebrated this evening was Rafael Amargo. The imagery broadcast on the giant video screens created a great feeling of New York City in the 20s; but for those of us who could not keep up with poetical Spanish, any deeper intimations were missed with the lack of supertitles or any other accomodation for non-Spanish speakers.

Amargo showed us his chops most brilliantly in a ten minute solo (after, I think, “Vuelta a la Ciudad”) in which he was surrounded by his accompanists, whom he commanded with an imperious gesture to inspire him with their singing. Someone got his needs right, apparently, as he finally laid off the peacock-like posing and insistence on seeing himself being the center of attention and actually got excited about dancing. And he smoked the stage, with the brilliant footwork and complete loss of self that to me marks the great dancer. But the rest of the night was polluted with an excess of ego, bad pacing, and some of the naffest pseudo-modern dance I’ve ever seen. The nadir was “Death and Ruin,” a piece in which a woman in a red dress sat on a chair, admired herself in a mirror, did about two dance steps, then rolled herself across the floor in a red scarf while a nearly naked man prowled across the stage, I’d been somewhat prepared by the incredibly bad solo with a woman in a tutu grabbing at giant strips of cloth above her, but this was just laughably bad. And every time Amargo came back on stage, it was all ME ME ME PAY ATTENTION TO ME! A pity, really, as he is a fine dancer but I do think this “having his own company” thing has gone so far to his head that I can’t take him seriously, especially given how bad the choreography frequently was. This was worsened by the horrible pacing, which was extremely masculine in its concept that FAST FAST FAST was all you needed – 100% climax with no build up and a complete lack of thoughtfulness. It was like a 16 year old boy was at the wheel. It needed restructuring and serious cutting: no more tap dancing garden gnomes, no woman treading on her dress’ long skirt, and, frankly, a whole lot less of Amargo standing there with his arms in the air staring at the audience all but saying LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM! I was embarrassed for him. And despite all of the fast banging on stage, I found myself yawning constantly (while my companion actually nodded off). It was an unfortunate end to the festival for me.

(This review is for a performance that took place on February 17th, 2012. It is repeated tonight. Be advised it started nearly 20 minutes late and ran over.)

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One Response to “Review – Rafael Amargo – Sadler’s Wells 2012 Flamenco Festival”

  1. Somba Dih Says:

    I knew this wasn’t traditional Flamenco but I was disappointed when the performance began rather late and with a hokey set, heartbeat, film backdrop and no subtitles.

    When a male and female dancer dressed in white appeared I thought we might be in for subsequent flamenco duets but this was not to be; we did get some good group dancing and certainly
    Rafael Amargo worked up a sweat but the show deteriorated for me culminating in a very weak finale. My wife was the second person to walk out; I stayed but then a few more walked out just before the end.

    I read the 2003 New York Times review which said the show was two and a half hours long and needed to be cut down; this has obviously been done but as there was no interval it seemed like it was still two and a half hours.

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