I squeezed into the last available seat at the North Wall for this sell out show.  No frills indeed, just some branches lashed together suspended to act as a hanging space for long black coats and a salmon coloured skirt, and rough boxes for sitting on. Two musicians emerged discreetly from the gloom to set up a subtle pulse with guitar and percussion, later joined by singer Anna Colom Tadeo; three enigmatic young women in long jersey frocks donned the sombre coats and came forward with signature movement phrases before joining together as a stately chorus, moving as one with softly menacing clapping; setting the shape for an evening in which blazing individuality emerged from and returned to a tightly-knit ensemble.

First in emerald green the magnificently proud Yinka Esi Graves, spot-lit in her Caña Solea, the spiralling cut of her frock echoing and underlining expressive épaulement and arms, changing in a flash from elegant grandeur to humorous challenge and grotesquerie, her skirt almost talking as she flipped and coiled it.  Melting back into the group resuming her black coat, attention now centred on Noemí Luz as the women ceremonially helped her to shed her red dress and don the bata de cola skirt for a playful Alegrías, mercurial in character, both comical and whimsical, alternating flickering gestures and footwork with moments of wistful stillness, looking out over her shoulder.  Her huge train lightly tossed, occasionally revealing an underside of deeper coloured frills suggesting a more serious note to Anna Colom Tadeo’s youthful heady song.  Last to emerge in sober purple tall Magdalena Mannion for a deeply felt Tarantos, her arms and body combining sinuous unfurling with angular modernity to make inner conflict outwardly visible, building from a contemplative start to a powerful fast conclusion drawing the others into the dance.  The final image the three in dynamic unison gazing out, daring the audience to take them on.

I salute these three English dancers for finding their own authenticity and real authority within the Flamenco form.  From where I was it was hard to see footwork but I could hear thunderous complexity.  I was reminded of the conversational and expressive quality of this dance of embodied music; faces illuminated by changing moods, the delicacy of fingers razor sharp or fluttering in hesitation, living emotion visible in the twist and poise of torsos, their simple frocks becoming a vital extension of their personalities. They garnered a standing ovation from a rapturous public and we all enjoyed the intimacy of the whole company in spontaneous flamenco banter of dance and music, laughing and egging each other on.

The previous day I had been to Swindon to see Yorke Dance Project performing to a full and enthusiastic house. Intriguing similarities between these groups: pragmatic programming of accompanying master-classes and workshops ensured full audiences primed to engage with the particular content of the performances.  But also both companies in their different genres were revelling in dancing, their choreographic statements not submerged in philosophical or scientific ideas or subordinated to agendas of accessibility, entertainment, fashion or literal narrative, but responding to and dwelling in the music; uncompromising faith in the power of expert dancers to do what they do, share it and tell us something different.  More of this please.

Susie Crow

1st March 2015

 

 

 

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