Posts Tagged ‘Diana Navarro’

Review – “Mujeres” (Merche Esmeralda, Belen Maya, Rocio Molina) – Sadler’s Well’s Flamenco Festival 2009

March 18, 2009

Last night I went with W to Mujeres, the second show in the Sadler’s Well’s 2009 Flamenco Festival. I picked this show because I thought it was the most outstanding opportunity to see really good, “pure” (not group choreography) flamenco during the festival – with three outstanding performers, I assumed there’d be lots of opportunities for solo work. As it turns out, there was also several group (or couple) pieces, but they were generally quite spontaneous and fun. But onto the show itself …

The idea for this show was that there were to be three women dancing: Merche Esmeralda, who’s been dancing since before I was born (which I guess makes her around 60); Belen Maya, who is probably in her thirties; and Rocio Molina, who was generally being billed in the festival as a young gun and mostly qualifies as such given that she’s about 25 years old. So it wasn’t quite three generations of bailaoras, but darned close thanks to Ms. Esmeralda. In addition, Diana Navarro was performing solo singing duties, with accompaniment left to the three guitarists, four singers, and a percussionist.

Rather than review the performance piece by piece, I think talking about the individual dancers would make more sense. Here are my impressions.

Belen Maya, after starting the show windmilling her fans like Pete Townsend in the group opener, came back for a solo in a gorgeous white polka-dotted dress with brown trim and a fabulous Robin’s egg blue slip that occasionally made an appearance as she spun. She came onto the stage slithering smoothly sideways, her upper body motionless while only her feet moved her. At one point she matched so exactly her movement to the sound of the guitars that my mouth was hanging open. I enjoy flamenco so much because of the improvisational nature of what goes on and how the musicians and the dancers are actually riffing off of each other, but the way she just captured a sound so perfectly with her body (a turn and the lift of her arm over her head) left me wordless (hear the “ole”). Then she did it again, a different movement and a new guitar riff blending seamlessly into one work of art. Wow!

Merche Esmeralda was a great embodiment of flamenco. For her big solo, she appeared in a long-skirted white dress, looking a bit like a mad Miss Havisham (what with the ruffles and sequins on the dress) stalking across the stage. She took her time working her way into the dance and the music, but by the end, with her gorgeous hand movements, she was able to capture the energy of six musicians in one turn of her wrist. I was really impressed with her energy and enthusiasm – she clearly so much loves dance and was absolutely in the moment, showing no sign of the burnout other performers have after that many years in the field. She was really La Maestra and completely sucked me in with her regal bearing.

Finally we get to Rocio Molina, whose shorter stature and round face made her look very much like the baby of the group. But with so much youth I expected pyrotechnics, and she most certainly delivered. She carried castatets for her first appearance on stage, and she played them so fast I found it hard to believe she was doing it with her fingers. She returned for her solo in a black dress that was really unique, with a sort of sequinned shawl framing the open back, and circles cut out of the back of the skirt to show of the white petticoat beneath. As the tension built in her dance, she increased the speed of her footwork until it sounded like machine gun fire echoing off the stage, and then spun so fast and wildly that she looked like a cat getting into a fight with herself. Eventually the singers came out from behind their screens and she danced for and with them, creating a fantastic synergy of dance and voice that was extremely energizing to watch.

The evening ended with all three dancers again together on stage, each wearing a dress with a long train, in complementary colors of white (red trim), red, and red plaid. They seemed to have no ego problems (like I might expect) but instead danced and played and improved and just seemed to be having a really good time, going wild with their skirts, laughing and showing off. As they ended the show, I was standing on my seat, clapping, with tears running down my eyes – all of their energy just got me so excited and I loved it! (It’s actually a bit embarassing how much I liked it, if you normally read this blog you’ll have to forgive me for being such a pathetic fan girl.) It was a really great evening and I felt lucky to have had an opportunity to see three excellent dancers in my home town.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, March 16th, 2009.)

Flamenco Festival starts at Sadler’s Wells (and comments on the Birds Eye silent Vamps series)

March 13, 2009

Now that my week of Vamps in Silent Film has wrapped up (Salome, The Vampire, A Fool There Was, Alraune), I’m moving on to Flamenco at Sadler’s Wells. I’ve got three shows in the next 8 days – Estrella Morente (Saturday), the Mujeres gala (Monday March 16), and the Flamenco Carmen on Friday the 20th. I’m pretty excited about it – just got my email about Mujeres, and it will be 90 minutes of non-stop, toe (and heel) tapping madness! Anyway, the reviews will start filtering in soon – expect to hear about Senora Morente on Sunday.

Some comments on the silent movies I watched: I think I’ve pretty well decided I don’t care for pre-20s era silents. Alraune had good cinematography and a reasonable plot (as a sort of SF/horror movie, I saw it as being a sort of Victorian version of Blade Runner), but A Fool There Was (1915) and The Vampire (1913) were just a big mess, lacking coherence and difficult to watch.

However, I have a bigger complaint to make about the music that was presented alongside these movies. Jane Gardner’s piano score for The Vampire was okay, but Alison Blunt’s hodgepodge of random noise that accompanied Alraune made me wish it was truly a silent movie. Do these people not go to the trouble to examine the music that might have originally been made for the film, or consider how to do sound effects to enhance the experience? Blunt even missed out on a brilliant opportunity to illustrate the music the band was playing in a flapper dance scene.

I realize that my years of watching Dennis James at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre may have spoiled me a bit, but the man knows the genre inside and out. I’ve also seen The Asylum Street Spankers and Aono Jikken perform new, original silent soundtracks in a way that enhance the viewing experience. What does it take to get people to understand you can’t just noodle your way through a movie and not come off looking like a self-indulgent ass? I’ll say this much about Bishi’s performance in accompaniment to Salome: it wasn’t just original, it made watching the movie better. (Sure, the effect was to turn it into a giant music video for me, but this worked because the flick itself was so OTT.) That said, there’s no excuse for not having good music with silents. Can someone come over here and teach people how to do it right? I salute the Birds Eye film festival for investing the money in having new music created for these films, but I wish it had been done in a way that created something that could follow the movie around forever, rather than being so disposable.