Last week I saw three amazing flamenco shows.  It’d been a little while, actually way too long, since I’d spent the money on seeing such caliber of shows, and it was well worth every penny and then some….Seeing great flamenco is just as important as taking classes and spending time in the studio, and most importantly it feeds my inspiration.

First, I saw Eva La Yerbabuena at The Gala for the Día de Andalucía (yes, we get a day off to celebrate being Andalucíans; imagine if every state got a day off just to celebrate living in that state in the U.S. 🙂

I had seen La Yerbabuena perform several years ago at the New York City Center.  I loved all the videos I’d seen of her, and couldn’t wait to see her dance in person, but I was disappointed.  Her movements had been carried to such perfection that they were boring.  Her dancing was over-calculated and I felt it was devoid of passion and expression.  I’m glad I gave her a second chance.

She began with seguiriya in which she war a jacket like a bull-fighter’s (un traje de luces) and the piece seemed to be a subtle portrayal of a bullfighter’s moments in the arena.  Many gestures were taken directly from bullfighting.  This was followed by a group piece that was a bit stale; although perfectly executed, it lacked excitement.  The next piece Yerbabuena danced was a Tarantos.  I loved the costume,  but even more so the structure of the dance.  To begin the piece, she repeated the same phrase of movement in three different spots on the stage which made the phrase function as a sort of chorus or refrain.  In this piece I really began to realize the exquisite control she has of her body.  The last piece she danced was a soleá with a bata de cola (dress with a train).  She astounded me with her control not only of her body, but of the bata, as if it were a part of her.  To have such control and precision that she can command exactly how the bata falls seems superhuman.  It began a little cold and overly precise, but at some point she seemed to let go, and really transmit through the flawless movements.

Festival de Jerez!

Jerez is a town just an hour away from Sevilla.  It is known for its Sherry (Jerez is Spanish for Sherry), for horses, and most importantly for flamenco, especially the rhythm of bulerias.  I decided last minute to go to Jerez on Monday so I could see Manuela Rios’ show and Úrsula López’s show.  It was one of the best last minute decisions I’ve made.  
Here’s some highlights from the two shows:
Úrsula López reaching for the ephemeral in “La otra piel”
Úrsula’s show, “La otra piel” was both flamenco and contemporary dance, and she executed both exquisitely; she and her sister are truly bilingual dancers in that way.  At first I wasn’t sure how each piece was connecting together, but by they end they all seemed to work together like a book of short stories that all somehow point in the same direction to an ephemeral feeling; I felt the show was a reflection of our search for something palpable in a world where language is entirely impalpable.  There were many moments throughout the pieces of the dancers reaching in the air, attempting to grasp something and then letting go and retreating into themselves.   Rather than describe the dancing, which was technically flawless and very clean, I will leave you with the show description which is what made me want to see the show initially:
LA OTRA PIEL es una compleja y paradójica alquimia entre el cuerpo y lo incorpóreo.

LA OTRA PIEL es bailar desde ese hilo tenue e indefinible que se llama aire.
El aire es lo inasible,lo incorpóreo, la transparencia.
El ritmo y el cuerpo son su materialidad, su concreción.
El bailaor es un compuesto, una aleación de metal bailado.
Quiero bailar desde lo que soy, desde las fuentes de las que he bebido.
Bailar desde una misma, de mi libertad al aire.
Expresar la esencia de un baile en permanente diálogo.
Instilar otras transparencias, otros aires, para poco a poco, soplo a soplo, dejar paso a mi libertad.
Ha llegado el momento de restituir. Así, a secas.
Como si el cuerpo exsudara gota a gota los sedimentos que lo conforman.
Ser,desde mi cuerpo, fluidez elemental, filtración de mis manantiales, el flamenco y la danza española.
Eso quiere ser LA OTRA PIEL.
Quiero recrear desde la esencia de la palabra.
Recrear es un más allá del divertir o del deleitar.
Recrear es responsabilidad artística contemporánea.
LA OTRA PIEL quiere ir más allá del convenido diálogo entre danza española y flamenco,dos expresiones artísticas distintas pero no tan diferentes, alejarse de la uniforme rigidez a la que se ha sometido.
Quiero devolverle su libertad aérea, impalpable e inasible libertad.
Ir a la conquista del aire.”

(THE OTHER SKIN is a complex and paradoxical alchemy between the corporal and incorporeal. 
THE OTHER SKIN is dance from that fine and indefinable thread we all air. 
Air is the inaccessible, the immaterial, the transparent. 
Rhythm and the body are its materiality, its concretion. 
The dance is a compound, an alloy of danced metal. 
I want to dance from what I am, from the fountains from which I have drank. 
To dance from oneself, from my freedom to the air’s. 
To express the essence of a dance in permanent dialogue. 
To Instill other transparencies, other airs, so that little by little, breath by breath, I make way for my freedom. 
The moment to of restoration has arrived.  Like that, and nothing more. 
As if the body exudes drop by drop the sediments that shape it. 
To be, from my body, elemental fluidity, filtration of my springs–flamenco and spanish dance. 
That is what THE OTHER SKIN wants to be. 
I want to recreate from the essence of the word. 
To recreate is more than entertainment or delight. 
To recreate is  contemporary artistic responsibility. 
THE OTHER SKIN wants to go further than the previously agreed dialogue between spanish dance and flamenco, two distinct, but not so different artistic expressions, to move away from the uniform rigidity from which they have been subdued. 
I want to return to them their airy freedom, impalpable and inaccessible liberty.  
To reach the conquest of the air.)

Manuela Ríos dancing por soleá where it seemed as if she were in a trance.  

The second show I saw was “Consuelo de penas” by my teacher Manuela Ríos.  It couldn’t have been more distinct from Úrsula’s show; Manuela is very ‘flamenca’ in the sense that she does not prominently experiment with influences outside of flamenco, although that’s not to say she is limited to the vocabulary of the past. This work functioned as a sort of homage to the music and musicians that inspired her when she was ‘colmado de penas’ (overflowing with pain).
The performance was not as clean or flawless as I think she is capable of producing, but in that way it left plenty of room for spontaneous expression.  Manuela’s solo was a soleá in which it almost seemed as if she were in a trance at moments.  There were two interesting pieces that featured Manuela and Cristina Hall; the first was a tarara danced with long pearl necklaces in which both dancers moved in and out of the necklaces, sometimes enlacing one another.  After they removed the necklaces there was a moment when their true rapport and enjoyment of working with one another really shone threw.

La Tarara.  

The second interesting piece danced by both women featured each one in a bata de cola (dress with a train) that was stuck under a guitarist’s chair so that they could not move beyond the radius of their bata.    Both women have beautiful control of their arms, and the structure of the piece featured that.

Cristina Hall’s piece left me speechless.

The highlight of the show was Cristina Hall’s solo.  She began in silence, in a lit circle in the center of the stage.  Her gestures and movements told a story in such a way that nothing seemed to exist beyond that circle of light; the language of her dancing is far reaching in that; it needs no music, it goes beyond any limits of flamenco, and most importantly it transmits.  I felt as if the lit air around her was just as much a part of the dance as she was.  At one point she stepped out of the light, and you could suddenly feel the cold of the dark and the warmth of the light.  She slowly reached her hand back into the light, walking around the circle as her hand grazed the lit air.  It was a magical moment because the light and the darkness were palpable.  For me, one of the marks of a great dancer is they create the illusion that they not only control their body adeptly, but they control the air around them–the negative space of the choreography.


About the Author:

Alice Blumenfeld is a flamenco dancer, choreographer, writer, and educator. She holds a MFA in dance from Hollins University and currently directs Abrepaso Flamenco.

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