FLAMENCURA – Sadler’s Wells, London.
Paco Peña, virtuoso flamenco guitarist, composer and producer, along with his talented London-based dance company, present an exciting exhibition of flamenco. Flamencura, a word which means, for Peña at least, ‘the heart and soul of flamenco’, is an attempt to capture the exhilarating moment when dancer and musician achieve their shared goal, which is to express the powerful way our emotions stir us, something which is often impossible to express in words.
The show is deliberately simple. The set is comprised of a few wooden chairs, the costumes are beautiful but unfussy, the lighting is superb, but neither complicated nor experimental. With all frills and theatricality discarded, the emotional essence of flamenco is allowed to shine through. With nothing to distract us from the performances, the audience is free to admire the artists’ skill.
Ten pieces are presented, a mix of solos and ensembles, each celebrating the beauty and expressiveness of flamenco music and dance. Some of the pieces are more traditional; others incorporate more contemporary styles. Most of the dancing is choreographed (by Fernando Romero), which is no bad thing when the result is some wonderful partnering and elegant ensemble pieces. But space is left for the dancers to improvise and let their personalities show, and even the choreographed sections retain the feeling of danger that arises when watching a dancer interpreting the music as he or she hears it. It is especially enjoyable to witness the dancers and musicians communicate with each other and, with stamping feet or clapping hands, challenge each other to push themselves further. The way the performers communicate with the audience is also excellent. With their expressions and gestures the dancers draw energy from the audience, exaggerate it and try to make us feel as if we are dancing with them.
The music Peña has devised for Flamencura combines traditional flamenco styles with elements of jazz and blues. The two styles of music work wonderfully together, partly because of their musical similarities, but mostly because both styles utilise and emphasise the tonal effect emotion has on the voice. The thrilling opening of the second act sees Peña’s powerful flamenco singers duet with soul and jazz singer Vimala Rowe. Rowe’s beautiful, smooth voice complements the rough roar of the flamenco singers perfectly.
The show’s lighting design (Tom Wickens) is very simple, but impressive enough to deserve special mention. A coloured backdrop and clever spotlights create a rich, dramatic atmosphere and effectively frame the dancers’ proud stances, the flurry of their skirts, and the shapes created with their arms.
True, flamenco is a unique form of dance and won’t be to everyone’s taste, and at up to £38 a ticket the show isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, Flamencura is powerful, thrilling, and for any lover of dance, well worth seeing.
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By Andrea White
20th – 28th June 2015
Sadler’s Wells, London, EC1R 4TN.