Israel Galvan’s La Fiesta is genuinely creative, transcending the categorising genre of Flamenco in its anarchistic deconstruction of rhythm and expectations in front of your eyes, to build it up to something different, something modern while acknowledging its root.
It all starts with nine performers mixed in age and talents and a cafe background, summoning a village in Spain, Pina Bausch’s Cafe Muller. Galvan, who conceived, choreographed and performs in this work says it was conceived as a response to his experience of the dance parties he participated in as a child in Seville after his flamenco dancing parents had performed as a duet in tourist shows or in villages. It is also about traditional Sevillian religious feasts, the sort of celebration where all the street lights are turned out and the unexpected happens.
The show has a dream-like quality, the absurd elevated above the everyday while acknowledging its presence. The range of characters exacerbates this quality. The football fan, the older female who was a dancer when she was young is an essential presence, performed by Uchi. Everything is unexpected including the held, deliberately off key and grating note held by the Flamenco Voice, Nino de Elche. Intended to disturb you. There’s fun and laughter among the reconstruction which includes the voice and Galvan removing some of their clothes, so you know what is beneath their talent. In Galvan’s case, it is a little skin and much knee and leg binding, necessary to sustain his extraordinarily fast and strong movements. You look to work out which part of his body they originate in.
Alia Sellami is an extraordinary singer moving between opera and jazz by way of Arabic sound. With her talent, she grounds the absurdity, the circus, the experimentation that is sometimes going on around her. Every single performer is excellent in their own, sometimes eccentric, way.
Israel Galvan performs his virtuoso solo towards the end of the show but the rigid machismo we expect has been transformed with graceful upper body movements while the lower body remains as virtuoso as ever. With these changes, we see even his traditional heeled dancing shoes differently. His cape is opaque, he flings it over his face. He hides his rapid leg movements for a moment, leaving us with just the sound and rhythm, it turns out you don’t need to see to know his movements. Eventually, the rhythm moves inside you in another of those exciting moments that is unique to dance.
The show is risky, daring, perhaps a little too long, but it is exciting in its use of the past to create something different. More reminiscent of Pina Bausch’s choreography than described by her company’s two new choreographers for all their summoned iconography performed by Tanztheater Wuppertal at Sadler’s earlier this year. Galvan has already collaborated with Akram Khan.
A few people walked out, not understanding the deconstruction, it was contemporary dance, not the traditional flamenco they were probably looking for. Often great artists are pushing forwards, beyond their time, therefore not appreciated by those of their time. This is an exciting show for anyone who loves contemporary dance and enjoys seeing the traditional leap brilliantly forwards.
Review by Marian kennedy
Widely considered a genius of his generation in the world of flamenco, Israel Galván’s La Fiesta at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th April 2019.
Galván spent his childhood staying up late to partake in the “fin de fiesta,” the time after a show when the performers would throw off the restrictions of their roles and improvise together. This has inspired his new production, his most radical work to date.
For La Fiesta, co-produced by Sadler’s Wells, Galván brings together a company of dancers and musicians including Jesús Aguilera, Eloísa Cantón, Emilio Caracafé, Ramón Martínez, Niño de Elche, Alejandro Rojas-Marcos, Alia Sellami and Uchi, encouraging them to cross-genre divides in this most flamenco of celebrations.