We started, in a packed theatre, with a solo piece. It conjured up the hoofbeats, the footsteps, a crowded gathering, in a way that was almost more real than the real thing. The Taranta and Fandango were fast and furious. It was impossible to believe one man coul produce percussion, melody and harmony, with constantly accelerating rhythms. The stage was bathed in red light, and the dark shapes of chairs and instruments could almost have been nomads seated round a campfire. Sadly this was the only solo piece in the show, but it held the audience spellbound.
The rest of the band appeared - two dancers, a singer, woodwind player and drummer. Both dancers were very watchable, dancing together and separately, but El Tigre stood out especially! With his wolf-whistle tributes it was clear I was not the only female in the audience who appreciated his camp machismo and masterful movements. Clearly a consummate show-off he managed to leave the stage last in both curtain calls! His footwork was sublime, defying gravity and shimmering on his heels, and sudden pauses held the collective breath of the audience.
The Sephardic songs showed off the guitar and woodwind duet, though the miking for the woodwind was too quiet and so the balance was somewhat lost. These songs seemed like the Madrigals of the Flamenco world, lilting and haunting. The Flamenco singer, Antonio, sang for some of the dances, with a voice as rough and tender as a cat's tongue. I would love to understand the words, but the sound alone was evocative of a strange and secret world. The drummer added complex rhythms and played cymbals with his hands. The Rumba series showed the trio of guitar, woodwind and drums, echoing and weaving in and out of each other's melodies and rhythms.
Juan's succint and pithy comments put the history of Flamenco in context - from its roots in the Moorish settlers and the expulsion of the Gypsies from Spain. From some bloody events came the beginnings of this fiery, passionate and beautiful music.
The performance was incredibly intimate for such a big space, perhaps because the performers seemed so at ease and slick. The dances were either tightly rehearsed, or the performers very used to each other - the pauses, the changes of tempo all fitted perfectly. And the performers came and went, sitting in on each other's numbers, perching on a percussive box, providing extra intricacy and complementary rhythms, interjecting "Ole!" and saluting each other in tribute. It didn't feel like a concert, but a privileged glimpse of a different world. Perfect for a summer's night. We danced home.