Gala Flamenca 2017 at Sadler’s Wells

Sadler’s Wells bill their Gala Flamenca as “one of the highlights of each year’s Flamenco Festival” and they are right.  It is a show built around people who have won prizes at the previous year’s competitions and festivals in Spain.  This means that you get a bit of everything and you get to see people who are the rising stars, in the view of the aficionados in Spain.  That’s why we love it and this year’s was no exception.

In 2017, there were four dancers, the Gypsy dancer Juana Amaya, Olga Pericet, Jesús Carmona and Patricia Guerrero.  Then there was a guest appearance from singer, Rocío Márquez who had a bit of the Ellie Gouldings about her.  (Or, was it Joss Stone – young, female, long hair and accessible music.)  She did her own concert during the Festival as well as appearing with the company.  She has an amazing voice and sings very traditionally but also a lot of powerful songs which seem much more accessible.  I did feel that I would be able to follow the story she told if only I could understand the Spanish, whereas normally you can’t understand singers of cante.

In addition, there were two excellent guitarists, Daniel Jurado and Victor “El Tomato”, Paco Vega on percussion and Herminia Borja, Miguel Lavi and Jonathan Reyes adding to the singing. Unusually, Paco Vega was presented like a rock drummer, sitting at the back on a raised platform, albeit with a more clearly Flamenco drums and beat boxes.  Herminia Borja seemed quite old in this young company but, boy, could she pack a punch, including when she was duetting with Rocío.

The dancers danced together at the start and at the finish, perfectly in synch with the one another and thrilling to watch.  They then took turns to do some of the classic Flamenco dances and they were all very good.

Patricia Guerrero is tall and elegant and danced in a white dress with a relatively long tail as well as with a large red shawl so she manipulated both shawl and tail at the same time.  This was very impressive, particularly as she made it look so easy.  I was intrigued to see that she then bent down and hooked the tail of the dress up, converting it into a dress with a full skirt so she could do another dance in it.  Ingenious.

Olga Pericet was very small.  She danced in a man’s costume as well as in a red dress with a red and white shawl.  She was strong but I think Mercedes Ruíz, earlier in the week, was stronger when dancing the man’s dance.

Juana Amaya had a very different style from the others, seeming less polished and precise, perhaps.  I guess that is what they mean by “gypsy”.  However, for all that she was strong and exciting and passionate.

Jesus Carmona came on in one of those black hats with a brim but a fairly flat crown (like a squashed top hat).  He danced with it for a while and then gave the hat to Rocio Marquez took it off stage in one of her wanderings off and on.  He was strong and an exciting dancer but there wasn’t enough of him and of male dancing, given the number of women.

In fact, that would be my only quibble this year.   There seemed to be a dearth of traditional male dancers and companies of dancers where their formation dancing is so powerful.  I miss that.  The women are getting stronger and stronger and I like that too but there is a difference when you have a really strong male dancer.  When they dance together, playing off one another, that is great.  I wouldn’t like that on its own either – I’d just like some of it.

All being well, the Flamenco Festival will be back in 2018 and with it a Gala Flamenca.