Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company in Quimeras.  Sadler’s Wells, Sunday 25 November 2012.

Despite superb individual performances, the concept behind this production failed.  A cross between a recital and a narrative drama, the desire simultaneously to explore the early sub-Saharan African musical influences on Flamenco and the interaction between African and Spanish culture today did not result in an artistic unity. I found the musical integration more successful than that of the dance:  Flamenco dance, with its intensely contained emotion seems to me to be the antithesis of African dance, which was exhilarating to watch for exactly opposite reasons.  Both styles gave us moments of great beauty and drama:  I shall remember how a Flamenco dancer held the auditorium in breathless suspense as he slowly raised his arms above his head;  and how a white-dressed woman, arching and swooping to Flamenco rhythms, swirled in mauve and lilac folds of light;  and how a solitary man danced in a faintly glowing campfire-orange-red ring of light bordered by a tiny group of African musicians.

These were highlights in a patchy production.  The variable quality of the lighting particularly puzzled me.  The opening, when Paco Peña was illuminated playing alone on the darkened stage before the other musicians emerged from the deep indigo shadow, immediately caught at the heart, but in other scenes the lighting reminded me more of a school hall.

Part concert, part dramatic narrative, the shifts between genres and the hovering focus on both historical and contemporary cultural links felt slightly confusing, and the ideological and political message was sometimes forced.  There were too many wonderful but disparate elements to this performance, each excellent in itself, but which failed to synthesise into a coherent whole.

Maggie Watson

1 December 2012