Posts Tagged ‘Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival’

Mini-review – Metafora -Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia at Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival 2013

March 24, 2013

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.)

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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.)

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.)
Adopt one today!
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.)

Review – Israel Galvan – Sadler’s Wells 2011 Flamenco Festival

February 10, 2011

“Bonito!” “Maravilloso!” The praise was being shouted loudly last night by the flamenco fans at Israel Galvan’s performance at the Sadler’s Wells 2011 Flamenco Festival. The volume and frequency of the exclamations said to me that this was one the aficionados had picked up on; it sounded like I was in Spain, as normally the only words of encouragement at a Sadlers Wells flamenco show come from the various performers on stage. But Galvan’s reputation had preceded him and the house was packed with people who wanted to see fantastic flamenco, and they got what they came for.

It’s hard for me to describe what happened last night, as I lack words and to be perfectly honest was far more interested in watching what was going on rather than trying to scribble everything down. The show was stripped to the bare minimum; just two accompanists (a singer and a guitarist, both men, both dressed in black) and the dancer, who eschewed flamboyance in favor of a dark green shirt rolled up to the elbows, soft black pants and black shoes. He traced a line on the stage with his toe, emphasing the musical nature of what he was about to do (and the fact the stage was miked). Then he launched into the most intense, pure, performance of male flamenco I have ever seen, totally one with his singer and guitarist, becoming one, the three of them, with the music they were all creating. His movements went far beyond the usual macho posing; he showed humor, he spun and tapped his toes as he went, he held his fingers behind his head as if creating a comb for a mantilla. He thrust his chest in and out, he lifted his shirt and yanked on its hem, he slapped his chest and his shoes (ever aware of the music he was making with his body), he played his teeth with his fingernails. At one point, it seemed like he was telling the entire story of an invasion of a town by opposing armies entirely with his dancing.

I am constantly amused by the ego I see on stage in flamenco, especially with men; and I want to say that this was about dance and not “Behold, I am Israel Galvan, bow before me o ye lesser mortals.” It wasn’t like that, but I can’t say it was egoless, though; Galvan was wholly himself, one with his music and the performance, utterly aware of himself and his body at all time, but seemingly driven by a vision of perfection, a vision he was capable of executing as he whipped around so fast his feet were a blur. He let his accompanists play their parts while he faded into the background or accompanied him, not appearing to be “condescending” but to be part of creating a perfect flamenco performance. At the end, they all changed roles for a bit, Galvan singing while the guitarist (Alfredo Lagos) strutted a bit on stage, then deliberately teased him by tapping his teeth with his fingernails. Then they switched again, with the singer (David Lagos) dancing very tentatively while Galvan mimed the guitar and the guitarist sang a bit and laughed. After so long and so intense an evening, we were ready for comedy and lightness, and after so many years of seeing men past their prime dominate other people on stage, I was ready for the joy of a performer who was both tops in his class and a gentleman to boot. Israel Galvan, you have set a standard not just for the 2011 Sadler’s Wells flamenco festival, but for every male bailador I shall ever see again.

(This review is for a one-off performance that took place on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011. The Flamenco festival continues through February 19th. For my joy expressed more elegantly, please see Clement Crisp’s review in the Financial Times.)