The final component of Sadler's Wells' Flamenco Festival London, Gala Flamenca brings together celebrated performers to showcase both traditional and contemporary flamenco. The five dancers – Antonio Canales, Carlos Rodríguez, Belén López, Jesús Carmona and Sol Picó – vary in age and style. At one end of the spectrum, Carmona displays the Spanish dance at its most classical; at the other, Picó performs a routine that seems to bear no resemblance to flamenco, rolling around the floor and then jumping up to reveal red pointe shoes.
Though the show is rough around the edges, the skills of the performers are unquestionable. We were reliably informed that the older dancers represented the “Nureyevs of the flamenco world” and are metaphorically ‘passing the torch’ to the next generation. In any case, they all have remarkable skill; López, in particular, has the most exquisitely detailed and rapid footwork.
Live flamenco music is performed onstage, though at a truly deafening volume. Singers provide the characteristically throaty flamenco sounds with excellence, but their voices are piercing to all but the most attuned ear.
The dancing itself is similarly hard to appreciate. For non-flamenco aficionados, even the performers’ impressive talents are unlikely to make up for the repetitiveness of the show.
The Flamenco Festival London attracts a different crowd to Sadler’s Wells’ usual visitors. The familiar ‘turn off your mobile phone and don’t take pictures’ announcement is relayed in both Spanish and English and audience members frequently call out “olé!” during the performance. As López captivates the stage, there is even an enthusiastic shout of “flamenca guapa” from the stalls. This is clearly beautiful flamenco, but it takes a real flamenco lover to value it.
Gala Flamenca is at Sadler's Wells tonight and tomorrow. Tickets priced £12-40 are available from the Sadler's Wells website. Pictured: Belén López / Photo by Bernardo Doral. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to this performance.