Archive for July, 2010

Flamenco sin fronteras

I’ve seen lots of flamenco fusion before, but seldom anything as rich and harmonious as Paco Peña’s latest show, Flamenco sin fronteras, that was on last week at Sadler’s Wells. It is elegant, wondrous and beautiful. Paco Peña is certainly a perfectionist and it shows in the quality of his work. What I like best about him is not so much the zeal and the discipline for perfection — several dedicated flamenco share these traits — but the fact that he constantly seeks out new challenges and new forms of communication, so that his work keeps growing and changing. There is a high level of artistic innovation in this show and also a great deal of cultural regard. Half the performers are from Venezuela and what this show achieves is a dialogue through music and dance across the Atlantic. Both styles remain distinct throughout, but meld gracefully into one another at certain points, only to branch out and become distinct again.

One constant in Paco Peña’s shows over the years has been the dancer Charo Espina and many of us will agree that we have come to look forward to seeing her elegant performances year after year. Ángel Muñoz and Ramón Martínez make up a formidable duo, backed by some wonderful singers and guitarrists, including, of course, Paco Peña himself. On the Venezuelan side, Daniela Tugues forms a kind of artistic, transatlantic bridge through her own Venezuelan background and training in flamenco, both in Caracas and in Madrid. She moves easily and suddenly from one style to another. In addition to the cajón and flamenco percussion, there is also Venezuelan percussion, the bandola, the cuatro, Venezuela’s national instrument,  and the mandolin. As for the singers, the flamencos were great, but the most memorable were the Venezuelans, Diego Álvarez, with his almost magical voice, and Carlos Tález. This music brings with it not only the sounds of Latin America, but also of Africa — and also of maracas!

On another note, the show can be read as a repudiation of history. At one jovial point, the Venezuelans claim equality, stating that 500 years since the ‘discovery’ of America are now over, enough is enough and bygones must be bygones. The two musical forms — and cultures — try jokingly to outdo one another. In the end, though, there are notable differences: flamenco seems more obviously stylized, while the Venezuelan dances are earthy, close to the ground, danced barefoot. Having said that, the two sides also found a commonality between the dispossession of gitanos in Spain and that of slaves in Venezuela… a reminder of Lorca’s response, following his visit to Harlem, that poverty is poverty and despair is despair. This gave rise to his wonderful Poeta en Nueva York. Flamenco sin fronteras is deeply melodious and poetic in very memorable ways.

July 8, 2010 Posted Under: General   Read More