Gala Flamenca – Mercedes Ruiz, Eduardo Guerrero, María Moreno

Spectacular.

The best word to describe the 2019 Gala Flamenca of the London Flamenco Festival.

Spectacular!

Funny I’ve never liked Galas, yet, I always go see them. Why? I’ll explain.

I have never liked the Gala, because it felt it was aimed at a public less familiar with flamenco, so it had to be rather entertaining flamenco, easy to enjoy, with the focus on dance, to introduce flamenco, not to immerse in it, more like a show than a concert. Accordingly, the public tends to be different: phones ring, messages beep, people come and go during the performance, the level of respect is different. Not to mention, the challenge of having so many artists together in one concert. Never easy, ending with all sorts of results… At the same time, being able to see various artists at once, is very attractive. So I have always gone and hoped for a song, a dance, an individual performance to make it worthwhile, because the acts of all participants together, have never really convinced me. Maybe because I have never seen a good Gala. Until now!

The Gala Flamenca with Mercedes Ruiz, Edu Guerrero, María Moreno and María Terremoto, with the artistic direction of Manuel Liñán was a blast!

My connection to Andalusia is through El Puerto de Santa María, which means that the flamenco close to my heart is from this area: Cádiz, Jerez, El Puerto… and this year, most artists were from these places!

Mercedes Ruiz has been around for a while, and has always been among the dancers I liked. Representing Jerez, dancing a seguriya with impressive skills on the castanets. Great choice of the flamenco palo, and nice dancing.

I was happy to see Eduardo Guerrero live for the first time. Edu is from Cádiz and has danced a caña with unbelievable footwork, which is still not my favourite part of flamenco dance, but it was a joy to watch his long arms, long legs, long hair.

My surprise was María Moreno (also from Cádiz) who I have not seen before either. She won the Revelation Artist Giraldillo Award on the Sevilla Bienal last year, so I already knew about her, but didn’t expect this at all. Epic alegrías! My conclusion: sometimes less movement is so much more. There is no need to overcomplicate the steps or footwork, silence and small movements can transmit so much emotion! I loved seeing her dance so beautifully with bata de cola (the long tail of the flamenco skirt) and the mantón (the big flamenco shawl). I don’t remember when was the last time I saw anyone dance with either bata de cola or mantón. It was refreshing and beautiful!

The dance of Edu and María, both dressed in red was one of the prettiest parts of the show!

I have already written a post about her, so I was thrilled to listen to the live singing of María Terremoto from Jerez. So young, and still, such power in her voice, such mature singing and so much emotion. I have listened so much flamenco singing, but she seems so different, truly exceptional I personally think. I am a big fan!

The singing of Ismael El Bola was also a great surprise, really enjoyed his voice and participation. Just like the guitar of Santiago Lara, always a pleasure to have his guitar!

I have only realised after this show that I didn’t really know what artistic direction was. Having seen this Gala with the artistic direction of Manuel Liñán, I can say that artistic direction is so powerful! Also happy to confirm that I am still and even more of a devoted fan of Manuel. He is not only an excellent dancer (and his “Irreversible” may be the greatest flamenco shows I have ever seen), but his contribution to this show has created a fascinating visual experience of these marvellous artists.

Congratulations all. I think I have just had the luck to see the best Flamenco Gala ever!

Dance, dance, dance

Throughout my years of flamenco love, I have been searching for years for the perfect dancer, the true flamenco bailaor/a. But the end of this story is not that I found it. Only after long years I came to realise that it doesn’t exist. There is not one dancer who is perfect, or is the true flamenco. As our friend, J. says: “We are all different. Isn’t that wonderful?”

All the different dancers add a bit of themselves to the colour palette of flamenco and their uniqueness makes flamenco so colourful and diverse. Variety is beauty. Not only in flamenco, in everything. And there shouldn’t be one idealised dancer because reality is that WE ARE ALL different, therefore the dance of each individual should also be different.

Matilde Coral is different from Manuela Carrasco, even though both are from Seville, but representing different schools, different styles. Eva Yerbabuena and Farruquito are two different worlds, just like María Pagés and Gema Moneo. Sara Baras is nothing like Pastora Galván. Marco Flores is nothing like Manuel Liñan. And thank the Lord for that! How boring would it be if they all danced the same?!

There are dancers who bring flamenco even further, testing the established limits. Have you heard about Israel Galván? Or Rocio Molina? When you see them for the first time, you’ll ask: “What is this? This is not flamenco.” It is certainly not traditional flamenco, but they are using flamenco for creating something new, going beyond the boundaries of traditional flamenco. Don’t expect flamenco when you go see them, and you won’t be disappointed. You can just enjoy art, dance, music. Opinions of course vary. Some say what Israel Galván does, is not flamenco, he is simply crazy. Others adore him and his inventions. These new creations tend to succeed first outside of Spain and then in Spain. The reason behind is the group of people, called purists, who defend the traditions and the purity of old flamenco by basically rejecting everything new. I don’t think they can be blamed too much, because this must also be done by someone. It can be disputed how strict they should be but this is such a complex topic that deserves a post.

A. says Israel Galván is a genius. He knows his tradition so well that it allows him to make fun of it by taking flamenco beyond itself and create something new, something unbelievable!

The last show of Isabel Bayón, choreographed by Israel Galván, ‘Dju-dju‘ was utterly brilliant (I wanted to use this expression since I first heard it during the 2012 London Olympics…). The greatest theatre play I have recently seen. Knowing Israel was behind the show, we have absolutely loved it!

Similar to ‘Reversible‘ of Manuel Liñan. I wanted to see the show because I have never seen a man dance with ‘bata de cola’, the long tail of a special flamenco dress. I not only saw a man dance with bata de cola but saw the most exciting flamenco show in years! Fresh, new, thoughtful but at the same time traditional! Fascinating.

I love the dance of Adela Campallo, La Lupi and Pastora Galván. I find them very feminine and love how they represent traditional flamenco.

I have always liked Mercedes Ruiz and her shows which are never one big show (like the shows of Sara Baras, Carmen or La Pepa), but lots of different, individual dances under the same theme.

I am now discovering more male dancers: Manuel Liñan, José Maldonado, El Choro, Antonio El Pipa… they simply rock!

And my all time favourite is Lucía Ruibal. She encompasses every feature of a true flamenco: she has the tradition deep within, the technique with excellent footwork and beautiful hands/arms, and her love of flamenco and passion for dance, make her outstand among all the new talents.

I recently heard an interview with El Carrete de Malaga, an almost 80year old gentleman who has been a flamenco dancer all his life. He was asked what dancers he liked and he answered : Antonio, el Bailarín, Antonio Farruco and Fred Astaire, because he also danced a type of bulería! There you go. Who said that flamenco can only be danced by flamencos?