Posts Tagged ‘Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival 2013’

Mini-review – Danzaora – Rocio Molina at Sadler’s Wells 2013 Flamenco Festival

March 20, 2013

My third opportunity to see Rocio Molina perform was an occasion for some thought afterwards. She’s proven her mastery of the techniques; it’s now, clearly, time for her to start demonstrating her abilities as an artist. To that effect, she chose a stripped down set: her, three accompanists, a square pillar with a vase and a goblet; and a small seating area in the back. The focus was really on dancing, and what dancing makes you think about when done well: the way music and footwork interact (her and a glowing tambourine); the body as an instrument (as one of her palmeros added in some much more complicated footwork); the artifice/necessity of accessories in flamenco (hair as a part of a dance; pistachio green versus granny shoes in a “I’ll choose whatever tool I want to suit my dance” style).

Ambition, I think, overtook this show; my experience as a flamenco audience was quickly overwhelmed by my years watching modern dance, which it seems Ms Molina hasn’t acquainted herself with. She was clearly moving flamenco forward from its rather smothering tradition (i.e. Farruquito’s show), achieving brilliance during the flamenca versus palmero section (which had echoes of Indiana Jones’ Nepalese drinking game) and deliciously warping the fabric of space and time during the “dancing to the echoes of my own feet” section at the very end. But as modern dance this show came of childish and half baked, with thin ideas and a reliance on cheese (“I smash the glass beneath my feet!” and “Behold! I shake the bells on my head!”) rather than depth and … well, intelligent modern dance. So I found parts of if it quite painful, but I was still able to accept its failings as the experiments of a choreographer trying to push the limits of what she knows, while hoping that perhaps she might get out and see how much broader a vocabulary and tradition exists than the one she seems to be working with.

My final thoughts were that there seem to be about four types of flamenco performances, which I define as follows: Ye Olde School, hypermasculine and choking on tradition (Farruquito); I Feel Pretty, the tourist tablao, with lots of long skirts and fans rather than excellent dance (Nuevo Ballet Espanol); “This time do it without the scarf” (a Brady Bunch reference), a show which attempts to be “modern” that fail but may feature excellent dancing (tonight); and shows that actually push the art form forward (Israel Galvan, coming up Sunday but my review of his last show here; Paco Pena’s Quimeras). The last is, of course, my favorite kind; but what I enjoy about the Flamenco Festival is that it gives me a chance to see so many different kinds of flamenco performed that I feel like I have had a chance to really get exposed to what is going on in today’s flamenco scene, even from as far away as London. On to the next show (for me) Friday: Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The Flamenco festival continues through March 23rd.)

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Mini-review – Abolengo – Farruquito at Sadler’s Wells 2013 Flamenco Festival

March 19, 2013

Sunday night was the opening for the second performance of Sadler’s Well’s 2013 Flamenco Festival, a program called “Abolengo” (supposedly “heritage”) starring the dancer Farruquito. In addition to three singers (Encarnita Anillo, Antinio Villar, Juan Joe Amador) and the usual backup, he had the surprising addition of a pianist (Jaime Calabuch), which at time gave things a very cool nightclub feeling, and the Mexican dancer Carmen Amaya. I was worried he might treat her as merely a filler or someone set up to make him look better, but it wasn’t the case at all: he chose someone that set him off by matching him in talent rather than by being an obviously weaker dancer. Go Farruquito, and go Carmen for your wonderful talents. (Encarnita, I’m afraid, I found too harsh … her voice grated on me about midway through her second song and while I could see that she was well in control of her notes, it just sounded like the instrument had been broken and any sweetness could no longer be found.)
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Overall, the style of both Farruquito and Amaya’s dancing was very leg focused – when they danced together (as in at the beginning), there was some big arm swoops, but pretty much no gentle twists of the hands and wrists. It all felt very masculine, a feeling that wasn’t helped by the focus on speed throughout. I like my flamenco to have more buildup, but (much as it is with some men!) this performance nearly entirely avoided slower moments in favor of BANG BANG BANG spin *bounce* OLE! When Amaya did her long solo toward the end of the piece, I felt like I finally had a chance to relax and enjoy some artistry rather than just seeing flamenco stunts. Still, there was much to be said for Farruquito’s penultimate dance, “Improvisasion en una mesa.” As my companion said, “That was my kind of table dance!” And in his grand finale, my God, the man was spinning in the air and bounced off his knees – I think he gave Ivan Vasiliev a run for the money. The audience was hugely appreciative; I was happy to not be bothered with bata de cola faffing and having Amaya and Farruquito dancing together on an equal basis with a similar focus, even though, in the end, this was not the kind of flamenco I prefer – it was just too hard edged.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, March 17th, 2013. The 2013 Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)

Mini-review – Ay! – Eva Yerbabuena at Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival 2013

March 18, 2013

On Friday night, Sadler’s Wells opened its 10th annual flamenco festival with Eva Yerbabuena. She’d decided to avoid the risk of having lesser (or worse yet better) dancers distract from her performance and did the show solo; a treat, really. Of course we had a band so plenty of time for guitar solos and songs while she rested or changed costumes; but mostly, it was her, on the stage, changing her look by adding a scarf or flipping her sleeves inside-out. The overall approach was stripped down in terms of setting as well, with decor consisting of a large chair-like thing and a table that split in half (in fact although I think it was also a metaphor). Yerbabuena drew us along for a heavy emotional ride, leaving me worn out with sadness from the dance/movement piece she did mostly broken and curled across the tabletop; but she also moved with speed and grace, as absorbing as one could hope from a skilled flamenquera who knows how to use her soul as well as her body, with accessories to add to an effect but not distract from the overall feeling.

A special highlight of this evening was the sing-off between the two male dancers that had the audience in stiches; while their song (about how messed up the world is nowadays) wasn’t too funny, apparently the people in the band were teasing them (“Sing it, fatty!”) and having a good time. Laughter and tears: you could hardly ask for a better opening performance for a flamenco festival.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, March 15th, 2013. The Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)