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Nuevo Ballet Español

 

Sangre Flamenca

 

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Photo by javier-suarez

 

 Choreography and Artistic Direction: Rojas and Rodríguez,

 

Music: Gaspar Rodríguez, Antonio Rey, Daniel Jurado

Set Design:Anselmo Gervolés

 

Costume Design: Modesto Lomba, Rodríguez, Raquel & Roberto

 

Peacock Theatre

 

28 October – Sat 15 November, 2008

 

 

 

 

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A review by Barry Grantham for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Let me assure you that the audience, at least the great majority of them, thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Sangre Flamenca at the Peacock Theatre last night. After the first number they started to cheer, whistle, and clap their hands, and by the end of the performance, the company could justifiably claim an ovation, and I would not wish to deprive others of enjoying a pleasant evening of their choice. But from my experience, I cannot say that this company can be considered of the first rank and mentioned alongside such names as Pilar Lopez, José Greco, and Antonio and Rosario - and Argentina (the one I didn’t see).

The main problem stems, I believe, from the attempt to turn this subtle dance form into spectacle in the manner of Michael Flatley’s successful expansion of the Irish folk dance.  Flamenco is, I would say, an essentially intimate art, at home in some small café or taverna.  Almost unnoticed the musicians start to play - a singer joins in; - a woman comes forward and starts to dance slowly, sensuously - she is joined by a man - they intertwine – there is confrontation - they get dangerously close - they part and come together again, building up the tension until the fire of the zapateado explodes. Such an atmosphere needs to be preserved in its translation to the stage. 

From the beginning the present producers make this difficult by amplifying the musicians by several decibels higher than necessary – and I, who have survived rock concerts and a teenage disco, felt obliged to put my fingers in my ears. Then we start with a group number in which synchronised movement, borrowed from other dance disciplines is inserted in the traditional style – and no reason why not – had they included something new, fresh, or original in choreographic invention. In any case, with Flamenco there is a difficulty in giving a group synchronised steps because it is essentially a solo dance.  Even the famous pairs of the past were two soloists opposing each other.  Most other dancers can be drilled into a chorus; you can have thirty girls in a kicking routine, twenty men doing the same tap step, and even in ballet there is the dance of the four cygnets - but Flamenco dancers are just too individual and idiosyncratic to discipline in this way.


The women of the company are skilful, and good to look at in their traditional costumes, but there are none of what one might call star quality and it is on the two men, Rojas and Rodríguez that the Nuevo Ballet Español depends. Each gave us a lengthy solo showing, Rodríguez in the first part of the programme and Rojas later.  Of the two, Rodríguez is perhaps the more skilled dancer, with strong technique (including a reliable 5 turns pirouette) and he is a powerful performer. Rojas gave perhaps the best zapateado, performed on a small apron bringing him closer to the spectators. He took fine advantage of this, with a very good and likable style of communication with the audience, and in a sequence in which singer Maria del Mar Fernández was brought forward to work in close contact with him something more of the Flamenco spirit was achieved. And, I would like to mention another moment when one of the musicians, guitarist Daniel Jurado, got the chance to come into the limelight with a solo of great sensitivity.   

El Alma is an interesting duo performed by both men in an attempt to find a parallel to the traditional man/woman relationship. Well danced, but its meaning obscure with a great deal of Flamenco angst -  anyway I’m glad that they got together in the end,  but I must say Flamenco is, like it or not , the most heterosexual of dance forms; the male, the most macho and the woman the most feminine, in a costume far sexier than a one piece bikini. And to not have a single example of this fundamental element is a serious loss to the performance, be it traditional or ever so Nuevo.

In spite of their hard work, and the pleasure that they must take in their art, I feel there is one important aspect lacking in both these men and that was that sense of elegance and noble bearing exemplified by most of their great predecessors which, I think is required of all Flamenco dancers, who in spite, or because, of their Gypsy background must display that dignity and nobility, shared with the matador, and possessed by no other race more strongly than the Spanish.

On the whole I was disappointed in my expectations of this example of what I had formerly considered a most exciting dance style.

 

 

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Photo by javier-suarez

 


Tues –Sat at 7.30pm.  Sat Mat 2:.30pm. Sun 4.00pm

Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London, WC2

Box Office: 0844 412 4322

£15,£25,£33,£38

 

www.peacocktheatre.com

 

 

 

 

 

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