Text: Estela Zatania
Photos: Jean Louis Duzert
FESTIVAL DE FLAMENCO DE NIMES
Israel Galván “La Fiesta”
Friday, January 19th, 2018. 8:00pm. Teatro Bernadette Lafont, Nimes (France)
Concept, artistic director and choreographer: Israel Galván. Script: Pedro G. Romero
Music co-directors: Israel Galván, Niño de Elche. Interpreters: Israel Galván, Bobote, Eloisa Cantón, Emilio Caracafé, Ramón Martínez, Niño de Elche, Alejandro Rojas-Marcos, Alia Sellami, Uchi
Some readers will already have noticed that in the list of credits right above these lines, the names of the creators of this work are listed first, instead of giving greater importance to the interpreters, as is the custom. And this is quite intentional. Because aside from being shown this way on the program, the real star of the work is its conceptuality, above and beyond any of the artists, including the expansive Israel Galván. “La Fiesta”, which is how the show is teasingly named (last night more than one member of the audience left disappointed with the little resemblance to a standard flamenco fiesta), was presented last year in Avignon.
One of the first things you notice is that the dancer’s famous tics, so well-known that any flamenco fan can imitate them, are nearly absent, replaced by new ones. Israel’s intelligence doesn’t allow him the comfortable reiteration of past successes, knowing as he does, that he too can become trite. Because the obsessive rejection of all that is trite is this dancer’s driving force. Which is, in itself risky in a genre that feeds on the past. So you leave the theater having enjoyed the experience offered by Galván, while at the same time realizing the scant aroma of flamenco, despite numerous small details left as gratuities, such as bits and pieces of farruca, bulerías, even sevillanas… The rhythm and style of someone like Bobote is nearly annulled by the image of Niño de Elche with his pants down, seated on a make-believe toilet. The work is full of this kind of give and take, sometimes with dark humor included, such as the pretend round of tonás in which the interpreters push each other aside to stand out. And what can I say about Niño de Elche’s birthing pains? I’m not aiming to insult anyone, the fact is, he represents a birth, with mind-bending screams included. The work is full of such moments, and you don’t know whether to laugh or feel indignant…or both at once.
At least twice the interpreters jump into traditional bulerías, and you feel that momentary relief you’d been waiting for, but almost immediately they stop in their tracks indicating with their body language, the way you might scold a small child, that no, we don’t do that, period. And this brief dialogue with the audience, brings up questions you’d never before considered: what are the rules of this game?…why are we so fond of certain movements and sounds?…how can we define flamenco?…in fact, does it even need to be defined? The people responsible for the script seem to want to impose their negative answer. At the same time that what you’re seeing on-stage appears to be shouting quite the opposite.
“La Fiesta” has some excellent qualities. Specialized interpreters, each one outstanding in what they do, such as Alejandro Rojas-Marcos playing what appears to be a harmonium, the versatile singer Alia Sellama, the bohemian guitarist Caracafé… really each and every one, there’s no weak link, but rather a communication that pretends to be disorganized, but is perfectly planned and synchronized.
The scene of flimsy tables or platforms, sprinkled with what appears to be bits of broken glass which is spilled with a great deal of noise, is very Israel: always the fear of instability. There are other elements more difficult to classify; labels and explanations are shunned. Israel Galván dances what he doesn’t know how to explain with words, an allegory of life with the GPS turned off.
To explain this 90-minute work blow by blow would be as unbearable and useless as when a friend tells you all about his dream the night before. I recommend seeing “La Fiesta” for yourself, but forgetting every word of mine you just read.