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Marisa Hayes
Performance Reviews
Paris quartier d'eté
Paris, OT (France)

Nights of Flamenco at the Palais Royal, Quartier d'Été Festival-Paris, France - Andrés Marin-Vanguardia Jonda, José Galvan-Maestria, Rafaela Carrasco-ConCierto gusto

by Marisa Hayes
November 1, 2009
Paris quartier d'eté
Tickets: Place Colette, Metro Palais Royal; venues: various in Paris/Ile de France
Paris, OT (France) 75011 & various
01 44 94 98 00
Summer dance offerings are vast in France and typically associated with the South (Avignon, Montpellier), but this year Paris gave vacationers a reason to stay home, particularly fans of Flamenco. The rare opportunity to see three major Spanish artists, each accompanied by their own musicians, appearing for multiple performances as part of a rotating double bill at the Palais Royal was a treat indeed. Judging by both the quality of the performances and their popularity with audiences, the only question remains: why don't we see Flamenco with more regularity? The crowds love it and there's no shortage of excellent performers. Kudos to Paris Quartier d'Été for bucking the exclusionary trend and bringing Seville's treasures to the City of Lights.

José Galván was the first featured performer during each of the four "Nights of Flamenco". His flirtatious, forty-minute solo dancing was compact and precise. Possessing a wide frame, Galván favored subtle and small movements that remained close to his body. Sharp turns on himself and rapid hip isolations were powerful motifs within their containment. Intricate rhythms originated not only from the dancer's feet, but from Galván's hands that used the body as a sound board, tapping out percussion on both his thighs and chest, in addition to Flamenco's virtuosic use of palmas (hand clapping). Galván's greatest skill is his sense of theatricality, not simply limited to his fully-intact bravura, but his ability to spark anticipation with the crowd. He creates a consummate build up that leaves spectators in silent anticipation, waiting for an eruption that comes from his carefully crafted, but fresh and explosive timing. When the crowd refused to sit down during the curtain call, multiple encores seemed imminent, but Galván, with charm and good humor, addressed the audience directly by blowing kisses and announcing in Spanish that his knee was too injured to perform again but that his heart remained with us. It's been sixty years since this renown Sevillian, considered one of the city's greatest teachers and father of Israel and Pastora Galván — both accomplished dancers in their own right — took to the stage. José Galván's "Maestria" (skill) is exactly what its title claims to be.

On the first two evenings of Flamenco performances, Galván was followed during the second half of the program by Andrés Marin, another accomplished Sevillian, currently appearing at major dance festivals throughout Europe. In contrast to Galván's compact style, in "Vanguardia Jonda", the self-taught Marin produced broad, sweeping movements, creating geometric patterns with his long outstretched legs. His elegant control was on full display during sustained lunge sequences that formed striking tableaux bathed in a dark blue lighting scheme. Marin was accompanied by a group of exceptional musicians, including guitarist Salvador Gutiérrez and Pablo Suarez on piano. Although we often hear that Rafaela Carrasco, who took over the second portion of the Flamenco programming during its final two days, is an iconoclast, Marin underlines Flamenco's diverse roots often ignored in favor of the "passionate gypsy" stereotype. The Roma (the correct name for ethnic gypsies) migrated from India across the Middle East and Europe around 800 A.D. They brought Punjabi music with them, while adapting to the traditions and multi-cultural landscape within each country that they settled. As a result, Flamenco is an artful concoction of Arabic, Jewish and Indian influences, among others. Andrés Marin recognizes these sources in his musical selections, program notes and staging.

Rafaela Carrasco builds on Flamenco's wide vocabulary, seeking her own language through new explorations of sound and movement patterns. In doing so, she follows the path of those who developed the art form in the first place, assimilating and adapting at will. Her successful experimentation brought the house down. Lush arms and lightening-fast barrel turns are just a few of the technical elements that wowed the audience, while moments of stillness and musical pauses, unusual in Flamenco, added subtle layers to Carrasco's intimate ConCierto Gusto. Accompanied by a skilled group of musicians including two guitarists and two singers, Carrasco's experimentation with percussionist Nacho Arimany was the highlight of the evening. Her feet sketched various rhythm patterns, engaging in dialogue with the sound of traditional instruments as well as wooden bowls and glass bottles played on water. During the final portion of the program, Carassco, flanked by a singer on each side of her, formed an interactive trio featuring call and response that alternated between the singing and the movement. This successful scene wasn't simply an interaction between music and dance, but a three-fold collaboration that involved complex play between the two singers as well as the dancer.

Carrasco's mastery of the fan, scarf and peacock dress—traditional tools in the Flamenco canon—is a treat to watch. Skilled and innovative, she defines excellence on all levels.
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