So far, my interactions with the “Wild Card” series at the Lilian Baylis Studio has been a bit hit and miss. Whilst I have not necessarily appreciated everything I have seen, I have definitely seen some eye opening stuff. The latest in the series dotdotdot dance is no exception.
An evening that starts with me going off to a quiet room and being interviewed about shoes is probably not going to be your average night at the theatre, and indeed this proved to be the case. dotdotdot dance was set up by three Flamenco dancers – Magdalena Mannion, Yinka Esi Graves and Noemí Luz – and for this event they have taken traditional Flamenco styles – Peteneras, Guajiras and Tarantos – and played with them, both in dance form and musically, to examine both the dancers and the audience’s relationship with them.
Along with the dancers themselves there was traditional Spanish guitar music provided by Musical Director Liam Howarth along with Flamenco Singer Emilio Florido. And surprisingly, there was Interactive Sound Artist Yuli Levtov, Spoken Work Artist Toni Stuart and Cellist Colin Alexander, all of whom interacted with the music and dance to provide a very varied evening. A quick word about Toni Stuart. Anyone who has read my reviews will know that, on the whole, poetry and I don’t get on that well. I’m very much one of the take it or leave types when it comes to someone letting forth with a great spiel of poetry. But I have to say that Toni completely changed my mind. Not only were the words amazing, there was something about her wonderful voice and stage presence that had me completely hooked. I could honestly have sat and listened to Toni for an entire evening, and when her words were combined with the wonderful dancing, well I was in seventh heaven.
In fact, this was true of the entire evening. A combination of Flamenco, a traditional Spanish guitar and a cello being expertly manipulated by Colin and made to work and sound in ways I never realised a cello can, really proved mesmerising. Add in Yuli’s amazing sound art , which sounded as if it was coming from everywhere around the building, whilst looking as if it was controlled directly by the feet of the dancers. Turning finally to Flamenco Singer Emilio Florido. What can I say? Well, I could say that his voice was absolutely amazing, that he seemed to put every fibre of his body into his singing and that although not able to speak the language, I went with him on his musical Journey through every tune. I could say a lot more but I think you get the picture. My one, really tiny criticism is that I would have loved to have had a translation of the songs to read back through afterwards. That would have been the cereza en la parte superior de la torta, as the Spanish like to say.
Finally, the dancing. I was lucky enough to see a Flamenco show at Sadler’s Wells last year so am not quite as naive about this dance style as I once was. I can appreciate the skill and power of the dance as well as the subtlety of the movements – particularly with the hands. Magdalena, Yinka and Noemí really took the dance to a new level for me. They were so elegant and powerful, from their first number, where their movements were initially so gentle, it was difficult to notice the change in position, right up to the fantastically orchestrated final dance with the long dress and shoes – you really need to see it to appreciate it – the ladies were the epitome of Flamenco.
Overall, then despite my initial misgivings, dotdotdot dance proved to be a fantastic evening where the traditional mixed with the modern and a wonderful and talented team put together a really magical show.
Review by Terry Eastham
dotdotdot dance is a new company of three young British dancers who have fallen in love with flamenco. Magdalena Mannion, Yinka Esi Graves andNoemí Luz all trained in different dance styles before adopting this striking art form native to southern Spain and performing in prestigious venues.
The company makes work that explores who we are, acknowledging the intertwining of cultures that shape our lives. In this Wild Card, they explore the emblematic figure of the solo flamenco dancer, asking whether an entire life’s journey can be captured by a dance. Expect a personal evening of stripped-down flamenco with surprises along the way.
Yuli Levtov, Interactive Sound Artist
Toni Stuart, Spoken Work Artist
Colin Alexander, Cello
Liam Howarth, Musical Director & Guitar
Emilio Florido, Flamenco Singer
Supported with Public Funding by Arts Council England
Lilian Baylis Studio
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R
26 & 27 May 2016