'Duende' certainly descended upon Sadler’s Wells this weekend as Compañía Maria del Mar Moreno and guests performed in the Flamenco Festival's annual gala. Entitled Gala Fiesta de la Bulería de Jerez: Mujeres de Cal e Cante, it was a multi-generational tribute to the women of flamenco past and present.
This was Jerez flamenco at its purest: no frills, no contemporary revolutionary approaches, no philosophical enquiries. Just the powerful guitars and palmas (clapping), the compelling voices of singers, and the enthralling performances of a group of extraordinary dancers: the three dancers of Compañía Maria del Mar Moreno joined by guests Pastora Galván and Fuensanta ‘La Moneta’, as well as somebody who could be fairly described as embodying the very soul of flamenco, the veteran dancer and singer, Jerez-born-and-bred Tia Juana la del Pipa.
As the show starts they're all on stage: Santiago Moreno and Pascual de Lorca on guitar, Ale de la Gitarenia and Javi Peña on percussion and palmas, as well as singers Antonio Malena, Rosario Heredia and Saira Malena.
Wearing a long dark dress, Maria del Mar Moreno appears to be unhurriedly surveying her company, as if guiding our sight. She faces us and sings ‘I’m not what I used to be…’ and suddenly her feet start a fast zapateado. Your heart does a small somersault. You’re hooked.
Antonio Malena, grey hair, deep, urgent voice, sings as if pushing her on; and she responds, her fierce dancing carrying centuries of women’s lives: love, betrayal, strength and wisdom, and above all an indomitable vitality. She stops. She starts. Her arms scythe through the air as her feet maintain a supernatural beat.
Later in the show, as she returns to the stage proclaiming she’s desperately in love, she is joined by the septuagenarian Juana la del Pipa, who offers to soothe her by singing a song. Her deep, gravelly voice cuts straight to your soul; to see the duet between these two veterans of flamenco feels like a blessing. I sense that was the moment when 'duende' descended upon us all.
The show was constructed as a series of scenes that offered all performers a chance to shine. With bulerías being the style that affords performers the freedom to improvise, La Moneta's dance translated the yearning for the freedom to roam at night if she were a man; her style is softer than Moreno’s, but never less than engaging.
Pastora Galván, who comes from a long line of flamenco dancers (daughter of José Galván, sister of the maverick Israel Galván), brought a touch of the Seville style to this gala.
Throughout we felt as though we were eavesdropping on a gathering by fireside in a gypsy camp; the intense connection between all performers meant they were performing with and for each other and we were privileged guests. And what a privilege it was to be there…
|What||Gala Fiesta, Compañía María del Mar Moreno review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
24 Jun 22 – 25 Jun 22, 19:30 Dur.: 90 mins no interval
|Price||£15-£65 (+booking fee|