Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Dance: Flamenco beyond boundaries

director Manuel Liñán
dancers-choreographers Manuel Liñán, Manuel Betanzos, Jonatán Miro, Hugo López, Miguel Heredia, Yoel Vargas, Daniel Ramos
singers David Carpio, Antonio Campos
guitar Francisco Vinuesa
violin Victor Guadiana
percussion Kike Terrón
Sadler's Wells, London • 21-22.Jun.22

Triumphantly kicking off a two-week Flamenco Festival at Sadler's Wells, ¡Viva! gives the Compañía Manuel Liñán the opportunity to gleefully celebrate this textured artform by playfully subverting its strict gender rules. The result is a colourful flourish of pure flamenco that's allowed to find its expression far beyond the usual barriers. It's witty, energetic and staggeringly skilful, with a moving emotional kick, as it were.

This show celebrates how flamenco creates an on-stage conversation between dancers, musicians, singers and the audience. In this case, Liñán leads six dancers, two singers and three musicians in a variety of set-pieces that overflow with humour, passion and physicality. The dancers are men decked out as women in colourful gowns, petticoats, wigs and flowers. But this isn't drag: they are honouring traditions while proving how flamenco transcends gender. And a twist in the final scenes cements this idea in a provocative, important way.

Each scenario in the show is thoroughly engaging, with a riot of sparky interaction as the performers swirl around each other, cheering each extraordinary achievement and pushing each other further. Every dancer gets a chance to shine in his own extended number, highlighting distinct personality traits and skill-sets. In one, everyone becomes obsessively fascinated by some very fancy footwork, in others they are goading each other to dance, or to stop dancing, or to dance until they can no longer remain on their feet. In the most thrilling sequence, two dancers perform a balletic flamenco dance-off, using castanets to tap, since ballet shoes don't.

Along with a terrific sense of camaraderie and musicality, this continually entertaining show features several bursts of rapid-fire footwork that take the breath away. And the cross-dressing premise adds deeper currents of meaning, blurring ideas of masculinity and femininity, elegance and power. It also provides for some stunning costumes, including some fascinating on-stage transformations. Indeed, Liñán notes that the show was born from the time he was a young boy dressing up in his mother's skirts, dancing in secret with makeup on his face and flowers in his hair. So this show also becomes a celebration of unmasking.

For details about the Flamenco Festival (21.Jun-2.Jul.22), visit SADLER'S WELLS >

photos by Marcos G Punto • 21.Jun.22

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