Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia is the perfect beginner’s introduction to Flamenco, and this seemed to be reflected in the matinee audience on Saturday. It was full of schoolchildren and people who hurried to be inside the auditorium on time – the complete antithesis of every other performance I’d been to since the festival started. And, if I fess up, I’d decided for conservative seat in the first balcony way in the back, so obviously I had decided this was not the show to blow the wallet on.
The program started well, with a group of musicians to the back of the stage, and three men dancing in front of them. Then a red veil draping the rear third dropped away, and five women dressed in turquoise long-skirted dresses (“bata de cola”) were revealed, to my joy. They proceeded to the front of the stage and begin to do the magnificent dancing with the shawls whirling and the tails of the skirt being frequently and effortlessly kicked away as they spun around. It’s a hard style to show off your footwork, I think, but it’s really just a joyful spectacle, and I sat there grinning like a loon the whole time. And then the salmon-frocked Pastora Galvan (I think!) came out and showed the young chickies how it was done.
And then … well … I kind of felt like things lost their energy, perhaps because I think Flamenco doesn’t naturally lend itself to being performed in unison by groups. The only memorable things about the rest of teh show, for me, was the handsome solo of Ruben Olmo, skinny as a rail but powerful as hell and looking utterly focused, and then a languorous performance by Rocio Molina, with more of the unusual, angular arm work she’d done during her solo show but with considerable restraint to her personality. Except for a bit of singing, nearly the entire second half of the show was done to canned music, which for me totally killed the feeling, as one of my favorite things about flamenco is the feeling of connection between the singers, the musicians, and the performers – the electricity as they look at each other, trying to anticipate what would happen next – it was totally gone, It was just people doing exactly what they’d rehearsed in the studio, and it had exactly the kind of feeling of electricity and improvisation you’d expect from that. Ah well, I enjoyed the Alegrias section well enough as well as the chance to see so much of Pastora Galvan and once more of Rocio Molina, and, you know, for twelve quid I can’t complain much.
(This review is for the matinee that took place on Saturday, March 23rd 2013 at 2:30 PM. The Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)