Rafael Amargo — A Genius of the Burlesque

Certainly one of the most interesting — and no doubt one of the longest  — shows in this year’s Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells has been Rafael Amargo’s. It was also one of the most varied, ranging from contemporary, to blues and burlesque — all done in flamenco-style. At times, it was also tedious. Apparently based on Lorca’s Poeta en Nueva York, the whole performance was played out against a shifting backdrop of clichéd photographs of New York in the 1920s and 1930, a time when Lorca visited the city. That, however, appeared to be the sole relevance of Lorca’s majestic work, for his poems from this collection have less to do with the skyscrapers of New York than they do with the grit and the poverty of this metropolis.

In fact, the Lorquian element was more than a bit eclipsed by the centrality of the dance and also of the song, for rivals to Amargo as protagonists of the show were the singers, most especially an amazing female singer who sang a flamenco version of the blues in one stirring piece. Amargo himself is an amazing dancer, very grounded but also nuanced and sharp. Of course, the show was more about him than about Lorca’s work, but this did not detract from the overall quality. There were, however, numerous slightly tedious and drawn-out detours in the form of inward-looking contemporary pieces. Not being a fan of writhing bodies on the floor, I just wished he had done away with them, especially as the individuality of such pieces seems light years away from the hugely social commitment of Lorca’s verse. Any irritation I felt was more than mitigated, however, by Amargo’s renditions of the bulerías. I am not surprised to see that his latest work, in Barcelona, has been indeed on the burlesque in flamenco, for he is without doubt a master of the bulería. He is clever, sharp and witty with the bulerías.

Amargo is probably not the best choreographer in the world. His show was too long, too varied in style and cluttered, too mechanistic in its reiteration of group dances, but his own dancing is nothing short of genius. He is strong and light, sharp and delicate, grounded and fluid, all at once. He can play with his audience, he can flirt and he can command. There was little of Lorca in what he did, but he did make poetry out of dance.

February 20, 2012 Post Under General - Read More

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