Gala Flamenca

Sadlers Wells’ flamenco festival ended yesterday with the aptly named ‘Gala flamenca: todo cambia (everything changes).’ Indeed, in light of the previous two performances that I had seen, this last one was quite different. In contrast to the carefully choreographed colours and visual richness of what had gone before, the stage for the Gala was decidedly dark, drab and muted. So too was the lighting. It was as if the choreographers had wished to deliberately downplay the visual vibrancy of flamenco. Instead, they made up for this by focusing largely on footwork. This meant that the dancing turned into showmanship, albeit of a high standard requiring many years of arduous practice, where footwork and technical skill (lightning turns, rapid arms, the thunder of taconeo) mattered more than any kind of artistic quest or even a tangible dance narrative to hold the choreography together. Certainly, all four dancers, Rocío Molina, Belén López, Manuel Liñán and Pastora Galván are very fine dancers in their own right. However, the lack of a coherent thread through each of their performances, together with yet more attempts to incorporate contemporary dance into flamenco, meant that even as generously inclined an audience as these festivals tend to receive could take only so much and no more. Perhaps it was notable that, of the occasions when I was there and although the weekend audience was clearly in very high spirits, this was the only performance that did not receive a standing ovation. What was memorable about this show, though, was in fact the relative lack of flamenco costumes. Rocío Molina came on stage at the start in a brown leather skirt and jacket … The thought that crossed my mind when I saw her was that it would be a shame if flamenco came to lose the dramatic force of its colours and costumes, as well as the wonderful rapport between dancer, singer and guitarist that has so often characterized the communal and entirely social dimension of the art form and gave way instead to muted colours, introspection that verges onto narcissism and an obsessive focus on the quasi-acrobatic skills of one performer. Perhaps the one exception to this was Pastora Galván, graceful in her handling of the bata de cola.

Did I regret going? Not really… the singer Rosario Guerrero, La Tremendita, was well worth listening to and, if anything, the performance helped me realize what I do like and value in flamenco: art, beauty, dialogue and a sense of communion between performers and with the public.

March 2, 2010 Post Under General - Read More

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