Flamenco is a feisty, forceful and sometimes frightening tradition. Imagine singing that is as gut wrenching as it is harmonious; guitar that sizzles, tickles and pounds all at once; and dancing that is fluid and free, yet technically astounding. Jaleo Flamenco has been delivering all this, with aplomb, for over two decades. The flamenco tradition itself can be traced back several hundred years and although most celebrated in Andalusia it incorporates aspects of Indian, Jewish, Byzantine, Moorish and South American traditions. Until the 19th century, flamenco was only performed by peasants and gypsies and was as a means of escape, protest and relief from poverty and oppression. Jaleo, from Seville, manages to keep alive the intensity of what flamenco represents, and the company performs with a compelling sincerity.
Jaleo has two female dancers who wear the most stunning selection of traditional flamenco outfits – colourful layered skirts, flowers in their hair and bold, stomp-able shoes. One performs a more dynamic and at times aggressive dance whereas the other commands the stage with a careful sultriness. With both, however, the thing, oddly, that most enamoured me was the detail in their hand-movements – during every second of each dance the women moved their hands with exquisite and constant grace. The company has one male dancer who, appropriately, struts about like a cockerel: chest out and legs performing all manner of enthralling kicks, flicks and spins.
The music is potent, especially considering there are only two instruments on stage (two guitars); the percussive hand-clapping, finger-clicking and foot-stomping from the entire ensemble take the sound to a multitude of shifting dimensions. A standout piece for me was guitarist El Inglés’s Solo de Guitarra; a mesmerising performance delivered with an almost comic casualness.
My only criticism of Jaleo was the sheer amount of clapping expected of me during the performance and then several rounds of encores. The said, the rest of the audience was fizzing with appreciation and I suspect was merely being an uptight Brit. Ole!