Australian Dance Reviews

A journey through the Andalucia region in Spain with Studio Flamenco

Studio Flamenco.
Studio Flamenco.

Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre, Adelaide.
15 June 2018.

Studio Flamenco’s new work, Recuerdos, aimed to conjure vignettes of Spanish daily life in Andalucia, one of a few autonomous commnities in southern Spain where flamenco originated. The audience is transported form an early morning blacksmith’s workshop, to a midday town plaza, an evening river and, finally, a night time fiesta. And yes, they did deliver!

Studio Flamenco.

Studio Flamenco.

On a small stage at Adelaide’s Nexus Café, the company managed to transform the environment quite ingeniously with simple tools like a swath of blue fabric and a string of paper lanterns, simple movable props like chairs, and the arrangement of the dancers and musicians. These small changes took the audience on a journey through the day and locale and invoked the sense that we were witnessing a day in the life of a small Spanish village. The dances showcased the various elements of Flamenco dance, including castanet, shawls and fans.

The evening started at the river’s mouth, with a haunting a capello solo by vocalist Zoe Valez, while dancers drifted across the stage in loose white dresses to represent a white serpent of morning mist, contrasting with the dramatic black of soloist Susi Masi. The rhythm was introduced with the blacksmith’s hammer, which seemed to wake the sleeping town. The dancers’ heels started beating a tattoo that was woven through the flamenco guitar of Aloysuis Lesson and Marduk Gault as the tempo and volume increased to almost a frenzy.

Masi’s solo in this section was passionate and earnest, the delicacy of her fingers contrasting with the rhythm beaten by her feet. Masi finished with a flourish, and the other dancers re-entered, now clad in red and black. Their hands rippled with a subtle language, creating an impression of beautiful, passionate women. Stern almost, yet with this entrancing delicacy in their hands. They circled each other, their dresses featuring gorgeous ruffles and tight bodices to highlight hourglass figures made of black lace and red ruffles.

Studio Flamenco.

Studio Flamenco.

The second scene was set in a plaza in Sevilla, where an impromptu flamenco party sparks more life in the street. The musicians and dancers created a festive atmosphere as the crowd gathered to celebrate, cheering each other on as they took turns to dazzle the audience with a spectacular display of one-upmanship, until a formidable line of women filled the space, increasing the tempo and energy.  Masi appeared this time with a red fringe shawl, which she swirled expertly to incite the crowd, displaying the full beauty and grace of the Flamenco shawl dance. Masi called the company up to dance in breathtaking unison as the scene drew to an end.

A swathe of blue fabric that was pinned as a backdrop is unpinned and spread across the stage to represent the El Rio River. The scene unfolds with a gentle guitar solo punctuated by “ole” by the other musicians to show their appreciation and encouragement. Velez joins in with her breathy, soulful and entrancing voice. Dancers Emma Fernée, Melissa Walker and Satoko Kelty enter in white dresses. The languid waving of their fans creating the sensation of the heat of the day just before evening descends. We are then treated to the beauty and grace of the Spanish fan dance. Walker starts with a solo, and her stage presence is incredibly alluring. She flirts with the audience, commanding our attention with the coquettish use of her fan. Fernée’s solo is equally commanding as her feet create a complicated rhythm while her arms are slow and sustained, sensitive fingers and utterly entrancing.

Emma Fernée. Photo courtesy of Studio Flamenco.

Emma Fernée. Photo courtesy of Studio Flamenco.

The stage is transformed once again for the final scene. This time, it is a string of party lanterns that tell the audience that night has fallen and it’s time for the fiesta in the gypsy district of Triana. Masi comes out to dance, cheered on by the other dancers, who are seated on chairs. What follows is a flurry of stamping feet, clapping hands, accompanied by the guitars of Gault and Leeson, and percussion of Adrian van Nunen. The dancers look festive, bedecked with ruffles and fringes, and wear flowers in their hair. Their hands float above their rhythmic feet.

Overall, the show was highly entertaining, the artistry and technique of the musicians and dancers was inspiring. The evening had a wonderful dynamic range that kept me entranced right to the end. The foot work was amazing. I left the show thinking, “I want to do Flamenco now!”

By Jo McDonald of Dance Informa.

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