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Nuevo Ballet Espagnol - 'Flamenco Directo'

Direct from the heart

by Annie Wells

October 13, 2004 -- Peacock Theatre, London

Delivered straight from the hearts of the nine dancers and the seven musicians that make up Nuevo Ballet Espagnol, "Flamenco Directo" is a fresh, furious and fabulous show. It’s an unadulterated blend of the particular style of Flamenco dance, song and live music that company directors, young Flamenco masters Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez, have been innovating in recent years. While providing the perfect showcase for some phenomenal Flamenco talent (their own and others), they want to sweep the cobwebs from this great traditional form to give it a place and legitimacy in today’s world of dance. With work like this – tonight it had audiences clapping and whooping on their feet - it would seem they are succeeding in both aspirations.

The evening in two parts is made up of ten short solo, duet, trio and ensemble pieces that flow in unbroken succession from one to the next. A semi-opaque screen, subtle changes of light, a vibrant group of musicians and two throaty singers sat across the back of the stage, are all that furnish the set. Likewise, costumes are kept to a bare minimum. The show’s peripheral plainness and simplicity is linked to Rojas and Rodriguez's desire to find a shape for flamenco’s present that remains respectful to its past but will carry it forward to the future. By stripping the dance experience back to its technical basics, then going through a process of discarding, keeping or adding, they are banishing the hackneyed holiday postcard image of frills and castanets and re-rendering it to a state more saleable on the contemporary dance scene.

Performed with impact by the entire company, the first piece "Directos", makes this inclination immediately clear. The trappings of contemporary dance - black jeans and t-shirts, innovative temporal and spatial designs and a neutral gender dynamic - bring the focus back to the unique corporeality of flamenco’s unelaborated form: a quick but inclusive education in the special character of movement the style requires from the torso, feet and arms. Before the dancers put on the pared-down costumes that they wear for the rest of the evening -- "Directos" gives an un-obscured look at the chest proud arches and inward reaching curves from which each skyward spiralling twist and earth-bound stamping turn, fervently performed in the swiftly passing ninety-minute spectacle, evolves.

In perfect tune with the song and music, solos from Rojas ( De Corazon ) and Rodriguez ( Mil Besos ) took each half of the show to a tension-filled climax. Witnesses to their dancing would have had no problem understanding how they have come to be recognised as two of today’s greatest virtuosi in the art of the male Flamenco Baile . A decade from the year they dead-locked judges at Spain’s Dance and Flamenco Annual Choreography Competition into awarding them both the top prize for Best Male Dancer, it is still virtually impossible to rank either of these utterly individual artists above the other in their skill or passion for the form.

Edited by Jeff.

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