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.