Manuel Liñán was supposed to become a bullfighter. Instead, he became a flamenco dancer.
What a great decision it was! He is not only a wonderful dancer but also an incredible choreographer. I saw his show “Reversible” [Reversible] a few years ago in London, and it left me speechless. It was traditional flamenco in terms of music and dance, but at the same time, it was like a breath of fresh air. A number of different dances inspired by children’s games with the participation of José Maldonado and Lucía “La Piñona”. It was brilliant.
Now, his “new” show ¡VIVA! is coming to London. It was already part of the 2020 London Flamenco Festival but we all know what happened with everything planned for 2020 and 2021… After years of waiting, the time has come.
I heard so much about the show, I am absolutely intrigued to see it. Manuel describes it as a private act that they perform in front of the wider public with the intention to inspire everyone not to be afraid to express themselves. The New Yorker made a documentary called “Flamenco Queer” where Manuel explained that he became a flamenco dancer because he found flamenco the best way for him to freely express himself. First, he has only danced at home, hidden from the eyes of the world, but by now, he is confident in what he does and knows what he wants to show the world. In this show, he questions the traditional boundaries of flamenco, such as dances that are considered to be female dances, the dresses and shoes that are considered to be for female dancers only and even movements or ways of dancing.
The topic of gender, gender identity, sex and desire, what each of these are, how they are defined, how they interact and influence each other are high on the agenda these days when diversity and inclusion are in the forefront of thinking and LGBTQ+ questions are openly discussed (in the part of the world where I live). Flamenco though is still quite traditional, and such modern winds have not really penetrated traditional flamenco circles. Until now!
In ¡VIVA! we see 7 male dancers performing traditionally female dances in traditionally female customs, challenging the defined roles of male and female forms in flamenco, by exploring and diving into the universe of transvestism and proposing the plurality of dance, different forms and the uniqueness of each one of them.
The line-up of dancers are impressive: Manuel Liñán, Manuel Betanzos, Jonatán Miro, Hugo López, Miguel Heredia, Víctor Martin, and Daniel Ramos (the latter two have their own show in this year’s London Flamenco Festival). The show has top singers of today: the one and only David Carpio from Jerez and Ismael de la Rosa, “El Bola”, the young singer from Seville’s Fernandez family.
¡VIVA! in essence is a celebration. Celebration of expression, freedom and being yourself. There is immense need for self-expression, particularly for those who were not able to do it in the past and in many parts of the world, they still cannot.
I love the idea. I love Manuel’s courage and confidence. The world needs more people like him who are not afraid to question the old and traditional in this delicate way, without intruding; on the contrary, by creating spectacular new things.
It promises to be an excellent performance! If I was able to spark interest and you are in London on 21-22 June, I will see you in Sadler’s Well. You can get your tickets on the Sadler’s Wells website (no affiliation marketing).