Flamenco Festival London: Ballet Flamenco De Andalucia at Sadler’s Wells
A guitar, a voice, a body in motion and a sense of revelry: these are the essential components of flamenco, the dance tradition that has its origin in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain.
Flamenco can be dated back to the 1800s, to times of poverty and struggle, but it is ever-evolving, and has taken on new forms and features as the communities in which it is performed have developed. Pure flamenco has the hallmarks of spontaneity, an informal gathering of artists and audience; the best performed flamenco recreates this feeling of expression, urgency and authenticity.
Flamenco Festival London at Sadler’s Wells Theatre runs through the second half of February and features some of the most renowned flamenco groups from around the world. Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia is one such group, and their show, Images: 20 Years, celebrates and relives their two-decade history.
Artistic director and dancer Rafaela Carrasco has lived and breathed flamenco for her entire life, and it shows. In the opening scene, brow furrowed and body proud, she dances her lead segments with an emotional intensity so captivating that you can barely take your eyes off her, even though there is plenty happening all around her.
The show moves not between scenes, but more between moments, each one demarked by an image projected on stage to form the backdrop. The cantors (flamenco singers) and guitarists share the stage with the dancers, and produce a sound that encapsulates the full range of flamenco and its cultural influences. At times, the sound is wailing and despairing (cante jondo), at other times it is light hearted and upbeat (cante chico). The palmas (handclaps) are provided by both the band and the dancers in an incredible display of rhythm and cohesion; together with the sound of dancers’ heeled shoes, this is the heartbeat of the performance.
The costumes, particularly the traje de flamenco (dresses) are beautiful, but the stage is kept fairly minimal to ensure that the bodies remain the focus. And they do.
Each performer displays a dedication to their craft that is passionate and intense. The flamboyance of this dance form is less about arrogance than it is about vulnerability and emotion. Watching the dancers bare their souls before you, it is impossible not to be moved.
Photo: Luis Castilla
Flamenco Festival London is on at Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 1 March 2015. For further information or to book, visit here.
Watch footage of Images: 20 Years here: