thu 20/06/2024

Israel Galván/ Farruquito, Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells | reviews, news & interviews

Israel Galván/ Farruquito, Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells

Israel Galván/ Farruquito, Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells

Mesmerising experimentation vs a traditional peacock - two men delight

Israel Galván in La Curva: a mind that is wired differently from the usualSadler's Wells Theatre

The annual Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival is a hidden treasure-house of brilliance, too quietly sneaking into London in the unappealing limbo between winter and spring, but surely one of the great global gatherings of the dazzling individualists in this mysterious dance form.

Flamenco ranges from the red-top populists like the ebullient exhibitionist Farruquito to the wilfully innovative Israel Galván, who lit up two Sunday nights in a row which both brought the house to their feet in ovations.

Israel Galván’s the real galvaniser. Half a silent-movie comedian, half a mesmerising midnight jazzman, he's a stick-thin creature of 40 with a commanding nose and incredible heels who drives flamenco into some kind of outer dance that’s closer to the absurdist experiments of Merce Cunningham and John Cage than campfire jam sessions.

His show La Curva is his tribute to the flamenco maverick, Vicente Escudero, and a legendary 1924 Cubist-inspired dance performance of hair-raising experimentalism involving towers of chairs, jazz dance and newly-invented acoustic objects to make rhythm with. Hence Galván’s black stage sprouting his own chair towers, with a circle of dazzling white powder over a hidden soundbox - and a grand piano, a noble Bösendorfer (the Rolls Royce of concert pianos), mutilated somewhere inside its strings to make funny sounds.

sylvie courvoisierGalván is both dance clown and theatre poet. You see that he could do what he’s doing only because he’s using all the finest tools in the flamenco training - a blistering zapateado speed, or mischievously acrobatic leaps over the horns of invisible bulls charging him down - but what we saw on Sunday was surely born in a mind that is wired differently from the usual, a master of some kind of flamenco bebop. He had a co-conspirator in his calculated anarchy, the virtuosic Swiss experimental pianist Sylvie Courvoisier (pictured right) and two parental figures, the imposing “jondo” singer Inés Bacán and Bobote, an elderly gent in a hat who provided Bacán with rhythm from rapping his old walking stick on the ground, or banging his knuckles on the table.

There were solos for the three main protagonists that ceded respectful space for each other, songs that seemed to stretch to infinity until all the verses were done, piano of dextrous nouvelle cuisine - half Messiaen, half Mantovani - and Galván’s extraordinary dancing, hands scampering like mice over his leather jacket to find pattering rhythms as random as bursts of rain, boots swishing and hammering in muffling drifts of white powder like an acoustic scientist exploring radio noise. 

One of the many pleasures of this irresistibly refreshing 90 minutes was how relaxed each generation was in the other’s company, the younger artists sitting quiet and concentrated as Bacán opened her mighty lungs and gypsy soul; the older pair ruefully winking at what the crazy kids were up to.

He knows he’s handsome, directly engaging with his rampant audience

The joyful unpredictability of Galván’s show rather obliterated memories of the less complicated party time offered by 30-year-old Farruquito the week before in Abolengo. He knows he’s handsome, cutting an oily-ringleted pop-star figure with frilly shirt and a lot of direct engagement with his rampant audience. He’s a fine dancer, at his most natural when showing off dancing on a pub table, rather than looking for hidden depths.

farruquitoThree good singers were with him, and a better guitarist, but the highlight was his superb female guest, the Mexican Karime Amaya (of Carmen Amaya’s dynasty), who has a body like a range of mountains and dances with an almost male attack in her legs but a rich traditional femininity in her sway and swing. She drew all our focus onto her, of chico rather than jondo tendency, but she has that forbidding edge that can make a young flamenco woman interesting. Aged 28, she's been mentored by the celebrated Antonio Canales, who leads the festival’s closing gala performances tonight and tomorrow.

I’ve said it in vain before about flamenco troupes, but such a horrendously insensitive level of amplification removes almost all sense of live use of the stage space. Galván, being an acoustic artist, had done without, so it is evidently the request of the individual performers.

Find @ismeneb on Twitter


Half a silent-movie comedian, half a mesmerising midnight jazzman, Galván is, yes!, galvanising flamenco


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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