Israel Galván’s La Fiesta is sold as the most ‘flamenco of celebrations,’ which is a little misleading. Of the 90 minutes probably 30 (max) contain the kind of movement associated with flamenco, and when it's good, it's good. However, the whole experience edges towards the absurd...and not in a good way.
La Fiesta has a nine-strong cast: two musicians, three singers and four dancers. The stage is a black box with a number of raised platforms at different levels. The performers enter and begin to jam: intense rhythmical clapping and pained wailing (as in singing).
Galván's first entrance is on all fours, tummy to the sky, a mix between possessed matador and beetle. And it works. He's an extremely accomplished dancer, and proved that one doesn't even need to stand in order to be a flamenco diva; but it begged a question that would recur throughout the show: why?
All nine performers are talented. And I'm always amazed by the natural rhythm of flamenco dancers, which isn't always the case for all performing artists. When they accompany Galván with their complex percussive clapping it's definitely something to witness, and leaves you wanting more. More of that, and less of the absurd.
Israel Galván, La Fiesta (c) Laurent Philippe
Ramón Martínez is a dancer of note. This is evident in a passage where he's flouncing around the stage overplaying the camp aspect. Regardless of the farcical intention there is rhythm, purpose, poise and passion. But the scene is played out for way too long, so the laughs wane, people start to exit the theatre, yet still he goes on. By now you've forgotten any of the initial redeeming features, and can picture what a mental asylum for troubled flamenco performers might look like. This is where the party goes...wearing indeed.
The music is a similar story. There's clearly talent, and there are moments of melodic, passionate phrasing to hold onto. But there's way more of the opposite.
Alejandro Rojas-Marcos is an abstract maverick, but at times his randomness didn't help the party vibe. Alia Sellami has a stunning voice, but often found herself singing jibberish, making animal sounds or switching between mad laughter and emotional breakdowns.
Nino de Elche, known as 'El Nino,' took the biscuit for me. I will not deny the things he can do with his voice, but neither will I deny that I found them mostly incredibly annoying. Whining like a very loud baby for about five minutes while slapping his tummy, and letting out possessed squeals in the one section when Galván was actually giving the audience what they wanted (way too late), could not have been more off putting.
To cut a long story short: this wasn't a party I would've stayed at in real life. Galván is a brilliant dancer, but needs to dance more. All artists should feed their work from personal experience, but aim to remember you're also feeding that of some 1,500 paying observers.
Sadler's Wells is a dance house, so let's see lots of different types of dance, not just productions more concerned with being something memorable at the cost of actual content and the experience of the audience.
|What||Israel Galván, La Fiesta, Sadler's Wells Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
27 Apr 19 – 28 Apr 19, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 30 mins no interval
|Price||£15-£37 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|