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Flamenco Festival - Sadler's Wells, London, February 2010
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Author:  AnaM [ Mon Mar 08, 2010 3:45 am ]
Post subject:  Flamenco Festival - Sadler's Wells, London, February 2010

Gala Flamenca: Todo Cambia
Pastora Galván, Manuel Liñán, Belén López, Rocío Molina
Sadler's Wells Theatre
Friday 26 February 2010

As part of their annual Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells presented a Gala Flamenca to showcase some of Spain's younger and more diverse talent in flamenco.

Flamenco is a difficult genre to transfer and make it work on stage. As a theatrical genre, it lacks the choreographic diversity of other dance forms. As a dramatic genre, it requires performers that can go beyond the theatrical boundaries and connect with their audiences and establish rapport with the musicians while immersing themselves in the frenzy of the dance. That is the duende... and that is difficult to see on a stage.

In the Gala Flamenca seen in Sadler's Wells, one could feel that the four different artists that presented their work were in search of very personal ways of expressing their individualities through flamenco. Some of them worked better than others, but as a show, the evening somehow lacked coherence and, in fact, it was thanks to the musicians that the transitions and different acts had some sort of framework in which to inscribe themselves.

The evening opened with Rocío Molina's work. Molina's work was inventive and appealing from a choreographic point of view, but she lacked the dancing manner to make her own work justice. Her choreographic invention was much better showcased by the two male dancers that appeared with her, David Coria and Eduardo Guerrero. Her torso lacked the expressiveness one has come to expect from flamenco dancers, while her footwork, though strong, did not have the impact one could expect maybe because it seemed too technical and, again, not very expressive in itself.

Next came Belén López, who did have the torso and footwork in her dance. Her solos were impressive and well balanced. She is a fiery dancer who can hold the attention of the audience, though, once again, her performance was far from achieving that “duende” or magic one always expects to see.

Manuel Liñán came next and, in my opinion, he was the nearest to establishing that rapport with musicians that flamenco is renowned for. He started his number with a stick, that he handled beautifully. Then, he established the rapport with the musicians that made his number resemble the flamenco one can see and enjoy in the taverns and streets of Andalucía. Perhaps it is best when these folklore dances are left to themselves if we are to capture their meaning.

Last, but not least, came Pastora Galván, another very individual artist who brought the concentration and interpretation of the music to her own very personal levels. Her dance was good and her style a far cry from embellishments and much more down to earth in its look and feeling.

The problem of the show came at its very end, when these three artists that made up the last part of the show, Molina, Liñán and Galván, tried to dance together in some sort of flamenco “recapitulation” of styles and personalities. It just didn't work. Flamenco in its purest form is an individual dance form, far from the more theatrical genre that is taught in Conservatoires nowadays. To even attempt to mix these three very different individuals in a common act was something really difficult to achieve and, in fact, it didn't work. The musicians who had been left in charge of giving the whole show coherence and transitions were unable to make the three dancers find some sort of common ground for their stylistic discourses at this point.

Overall, the evening was enjoyable in its variety. At over an hour and a half long, it would have been wise to provide an interval for the audience and dancers themselves. However, the music was fantastic and the individuality of the dancers and choreographic achievements easy to recognise. Interesting to see what some of these younger artists are bringing to this old dance form. The fact that some of these innovations do not work is not a bad thing to see, it just proves that flamenco has its limitations, like all art forms, and that it is in the acknowledgement of what these are that the keys to succes in its reinvention lie.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flamenco Festival - Gala Flamenca

Compañía María Pagés in “Autorretrato”
Sadler’s Wells, London, 25th February, 2010

Flamenco has long been popular in London as professional performance and as an amateur dance form. And one of the key factors in popularising this Iberian art form here has been Sadler’s Wells both in the old theatre and in the new complex. I remember two shows in particular. Cumbra Flamenca toured regularly in the 1990's with the cream of the major Spanish companies and a simple but effective production philosophy that seemed to say to its superb, solo performers, “There’s the stage, you’ve got 15 minutes.” In contrast, Antonio Gades used pure Flamenco to tell dramatic stories and his “Carmen” brought outstanding dancer / actors, and in addition, older singers and musicians would also dance to show that this dance form is also an art of the people. Both these companies ignited audiences at Sadler’s, so it was a natural step for the theatre to mount an annual Flamenco Festival which, to my surprise, is already in its seventh year.

This time I saw Compañía María Pagés in “Autorretrato” (self-portrait), an award winning show and the one selected for the longest run in this year’s Festival. There was certainly much to admire. Pagés bursts onto the stage with defiant bravura, a woman full of self confidence, matching the climax of each rhythmic section with a dramatic flourish. Yet, later we see her mourning a lost love and spinning aimlessly, to illustrate the contrasts in her nature. She also experiments with a rapping section which is great fun even for we non-Spanish speakers. Her dancing puts much emphasis on her arms moving in serpentine coils and free body movement emphasising bending from the waist, resulting in a highly expressive style.

To support her she is joined by eight other dancers and in their sections Pagés’ choreography is impressive, whereas so much modern ensemble Flamenco can seem bland. But although her dancers are impressive with backs like Toledo steel, impeccable timing and machine gun footwork, the contrast with Pagés own style was too great for me, and I sometimes had the impression that the corps, especially the women, had been told, “You concentrate on technique and leave the emotion to me." Thus, for me, there were faultlines in the stylistic flow of “Autorretrato”, despite its many virtues.

However, no one could argue with Pagés final dance, with a wide cape swirling around her, reminding me of the wings of a giant bird. Many in the audience gave the troop a standing ovation and were rewarded with a reprise of this final solo.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flamenco Festival - Sadler's Wells, London, February 2010

Sadler's Wells is one of the great dance houses worldwide and in keeping with their education policy, they have some useful pages on dance forms. Here is the page on Flamenco:

If you want to know more about this year's Flamenco Festival, which has now ended, you can find details here in the Sadler's archive:

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