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!

Dorantes, Ries, Ezra, Ruibal, Carmona – Flamenco meets Jazz

There is always an odd one out.  In your class, at work, in yoga, at the playground, or at the festival. Flamenco Festival London. It should all be about flamenco, but then there is the odd one out.

Flamenco? Not quite. Musically it’s rather jazz, with some flamenco bits here and there. Structurally? It’s similar to jazz with the solos of each musician. The musicians? Some jazz, some flamenco. The instruments? Piano, percussion, double bass, saxophone, dance.

What is this then?

This is when Flamenco meets jazz, the concert of David Peña Dorantes, Tim Ries, Adam Ben Ezra, Javi Ruibal and Jesús Carmona on the 2019 Flamenco Festival London on the 10th of July.

Utterly brilliant – my favourite English expression.

The concert was special to start with because these 4 musicians have not performed much together in the past, this may have been their 3rd or 4th concert together. They don’t practise together every other day at their homes, they reunited again for this concert. An American, an Israeli, and three Spanish. I always repeat the cliche “music has no borders”. Music has a language that reaches beyond borders, and instruments communicate to each other in a way, that I sometimes find difficult to understand, as someone who doesn’t play any instruments. I found instrumental music difficult to enjoy some years ago, but having lived with a lover of jazz for over 12 years, I very much enjoy it now.

The themes were mostly jazz, but also including some of Dorantes’ themes like Orobroy and the Caravana de los Zingali from his album Sur (South), which I happen to have and have listened to it so so many times. When I heard the first beats of the song, my tears started running.

The piano of Dorantes is always a pleasure to listen to, whatever he plays jazz or flamenco. There are some geniuses around in the world, and Dorantes may be one of the music ones.

Tim Ries has played the saxophone with the Rolling Stones for years, and is currently working on a series for HBO about gypsy music from the East of Hungary, being released in September. Do I need to add anything else?

Adam Ben Ezra has solo shows with his double bass, because as we could experience it on the concert, he is able to entertain an entire theatre by himself. His double bass, hands, feet and attitude is more than simple entertaining.

Javi Ruibal has been playing percussion, drum, cajón with Dorantes for many years, besides his concerts with his band Glazz and his father Javier Ruibal, and he has released his first solo album this year, Solo un mundo (Only one world). You notice right away how well Javi and Dorantes understand each other and how their instruments speak to each other. It’s just amazing.

And then there was the dancer, who has recently risen to super star category in flamenco, Jesús Carmona. He is not strictly a flamenco dancer, he has danced in the Spanish National Ballet Company for years, and also in dance companies of famous flamenco dancers, like Carmen Cortes or Antonio Canales. He danced 3 songs, but the choreographies seemed to suit so perfectly the rhythm and the mood, it totally captured me.

I also liked that Tim and Adam both involved the audience in their solos: Tim by making us sing and Adam by making us clap. Were we any good? I am not sure, but it felt like a great way to connect with the performing artists, and actually form part of their performance.

Jazz and flamenco met that night in Sadler’s Wells. Title well chosen. And even if you don’t know much of either, it was a good concert to go to, because there was good music. played. What else we want?

 

 

Miguel Poveda – Recital de flamenco

If you like flamenco, you’ll like Miguel Poveda, simply because of his love and affection for flamenco.

He started his concert in Sadler’s Wells on the 8th of July with a little teaser of his album “Enlorquecido” where he paid tribute to the poet Federico García Lorca with songs composed to his poems and letters. It was only 2-3 songs but it showed the passion of one man towards the art and life of another man, which is emotional and moving to see.

Then the real flamenco started! Alegrías, bulerías, tangos, a guajira, a petenera and a few other simple, but true, authentic flamenco songs. In a world where everyone searches for themselves and tries to express themselves via but not always strictly with flamenco only, it is appreciated to listen to the original stuff sometimes. Especially from someone who was born into a world that had nothing to do with flamenco, and still his love and passion for this art form, together with his talent in singing have made him one of the top flamenco singers of our time.

What makes Miguel Poveda even greater as an artist, are the musicians surrounding him, and the way he treats them on stage.

I was thrilled to see that I knew every one of the artists accompanying Miguel, but even if I didn’t, Miguel introduced everyone one by one. El Londro from Jerez singing and clapping; Carlos Grilo, master clapper from Jerez (oh lord that contra-beat he claps so perfectly on time and with so much passion in the bulería!); Jesús Guerrero a new talent in the guitar, not only accompanying but composing; Paquito Gonzalez on percussion and drums, who accompanied Paco de Lucía on his last album; and last but not least, El Choro dancing. I like the dancers who don’t only focus on footwork, but they dance. The dance with their arms, with their bodies, with their souls. Antonio Molina, El Choro is one of them.

One of the highlights of the concert was actually a bulería performed by the musicians without Miguel. So much emotion and energy. I could hear the people around me in the audience clapping the rhythm with the feet, moving their hands and heads, as we all enjoyed the song.

Miguel’s English has still room for improvement, but English and non-English speakers both enjoyed listening to him trying and entertaining us (including himself!) with his improvised words and phrases.

The tango to finish the concert was just brilliant. Miguel and co. made a great show, and it was the cherry on top when Miguel invited up to the stage Jesús Carmona, who was sitting in the audience, and he danced a bit at the end. The process of Choro taking off his shoes ON STAGE, Jesús taking off his white trainers ON STAGE, exchanging shoes ON STAGE, while Miguel sang and the musicians played, has just shown that improvisation is possible, it does happen, and it gives us a unique experience of a concert. Thank you all!

All in all, it was an excellent concert. There is only one thing I would mention to Miguel for next time. In today’s day and age where diversity and inclusion are such hot topics across areas of age, ethnicity, gender, disability, LGBT+ etc. Where were the women in the show? To be fair to Miguel, he has had La Lupi as dancer on his concerts for years, so this may be a one-off, still my eyes missed the ladies on stage. Hopefully next time.

Until then all the best Miguel, you are still a phenomenon!

“The rock star of flamenco” visits London

I have seen him dance two or three times, and my first thought has always been: what is this? What is this guy doing? Madness. Art. Magic. A bit of each probably, but with flamenco present in each and every step and movement. He breathes flamenco through every tiny piece of his body, and it’s so intense, it’s inspiring.

Throughout his career, he has constantly been taking flamenco dancing to another level not only within flamenco, but also in the international dance scene. He has been working with the most traditional flamenco singers and guitarists, combining that side of the traditional flamenco with his innovations and inventions, carrying the flamenco roots deep within.

if you are in for a shock and amusement at the end of April in London, go and see the master of flamenco basics and innovation. The combination that won’t leave you indifferent.

Israel Galván

Sadler’s Wells

27/28 April 2019

Teaser videos and a short article is available on the Sadler’s Wells blog here.

 

Flamenco Festival London

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As we are approaching the end of October, I find myself checking the website of Sadler’s Wells every other day. Even though I am signed up to their newsletter, and I would receive an email when the new program is announced, I am too excited to lose even a few hours when the announcement is made.

This is the time of the year Sadler’s Wells, THE dance theatre of London, announces the line up for next year’s Flamenco Festival, and tickets go on sale. The festival always takes place in February*, over the course of a week, with the majority of the shows on the main stage of Sadler’s Wells, and some of the smallest shows in the Lilian Baylis studio, right next to Sadler’s Wells.

Since 2013 I have been to the festival every single year to see all of the shows I was interested in and could afford. The two are never the same…

But what is the Flamenco Festival?

The Flamenco Festival is the initiative of a gentleman called Miguel Marín, who realised -while studying in New York around 2000 – that there was a lack of flamenco in town, when there would actually be interest. I heard him tell the story in one of the radio interviews he gave, when presenting that year’s program and the destinations where they bring the festival. Throughout the years, this initiative has expanded, and the festival got to several locations, on different continents even.

The very first Flamenco Festival was in New York, then it came to London in 2003, which means that this year, in 2018, they celebrated the 15-year-anniversary of the festival in the British capital. Then Japan and Brazil was added to the destinations for a few years, but on the long run, the US and UK festivals continue only. They incorporated in the tour different cities within these countries though: Miami in the US and Manchester in the UK.

I found it interesting listening to Miguel talk about the beginnings of something so big and established now, when it was just an idea of a flamenco aficionado roughly 20 years ago. How he started planning to bring the artists from Spain, to create a program, to get funding, to organise and manage logistics, accommodation, venues, fees etc. With the overall and long term objective in mind to bring flamenco – represented by contemporary artists – to different parts of the world.

Funnily, I also looked into the options of bringing flamenco artists to London, when I quit my job in the city (and was in the process of re-inventing myself), but I found it extremely difficult and complex. My idea was to bring less known and established artists, within the frame of something much smaller and rather intimate, possibly combining the shows with dance and clapping courses, Spanish lessons…

Although I am a big fan of the Flamenco Festival, I do think that it is a platform for rather established artists, who can fill up an entire theatre with the ticket sales. The organisers must have their reasons behind this, which I am not here to argue. It was nice to see that this year they already had their own production too (I believe for the very first time) : Carmen Linares, Arcángel and María Heredia singing together (and individually) in the The Tempo of Light. This was specifically created for the Flamenco Festival, and was most certainly an interesting idea. I like all three artists individually, but this collaboration was not quite my cup of tea.

In the past 5 years, I have enjoyed many concerts of the festival and I am grateful to the festival for bringing all these people to the February cold of London*. I have enjoyed the concerts of so many people! I have seen dance Eva, La Yerbabuena, Mercedes Ruiz, Farruquito, Manuel Liñán, Rocío Molina, Israel Galván, Isabel Bayón, Patricia Guerrero, Belén Maya and last, but not least, La Chana! I was lucky to hear El Lebrijano sing the year he died, I heard sing Miguel Poveda, Arcángel, Antonio Reyes, Estrella Morente, Esperanza Fernandez and I heard play Tomatito and Gerardo Núñez. This is just the list of artists I have seen, the list of artists performing at the festival is so much longer! Just to mention some: Olga Pericet, Jesús Carmona, Vicente Amigo, Ana Morales, Leonor Leal, Alba Molina, Marco Flores, Sara Baras, Antonio Canales, Rafaela Carrasco, Rocío Márquez, Ángel Muñoz, the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía and so on.

The 2019 program is not published yet. I wish I could already share the shows that I will go to (and at the same time, give a shout out to all available baby sitters for those nights), but for now, I can only encourage all Londoners, to keep an eye out for the new program and the tickets!

*Correction of this article – published on the 30th of October 2018 – is required. I found out on the 11th of November 2018 that the date of the Flamenco Festival in London has been moved to the month of July as of 2019. This means that the program won’t be published and the tickets won’t go on sale until the spring of the same year. Flamencos, a bit more patience… We will get through winter somehow, and then bring on the hot summer London nights packed with flamenco! Olé!