| Dance: Mayumi Kagita
“Mami”, Hiroki Sato “Hiro”, Yoshio Yano,
Mamiko Kashiwa, Yumi Gon, Yoko Azuma, Tomoko Kudo, Miwake Tada,
Eiko Takagi, Sanshiro Sueki, Nobuyushi Nakane. Cante: Antonio
Malena, Mateo Soleá, Manuel Malena. Guitar: Santiago
Moreno, Malena Hijo, Curro de Jerez. Palmas: Luis de la Tota,
Violín: Alexis Lefevre. Choreographers and directors:
Hiroki Sato “Hiro” and Mayumi Kagita “Mami”.
Artistic director: Antonio Malena.
Text: Estela Zatania
Photos: Compañía de Mami y Hiro
“It’s admirable”. That dreaded
phrase we all tend to apply in specific situations. Like when
a Japanese company devotes an overwhelming amount of time,
energy, resources and the best intentions in the world to
a mission as worthy as it is impossible.
From the start it was inevitable that a Japanese flamenco
dance company would inspire more curiosity than authentic
interest among the somewhat jaded flamenco fans of Jerez,
but between it being Sunday evening and soccer on TV as well,
far more than half the seats at the Villamarta theater were
empty, the biggest loser being the Association of Relatives
of Alzheimer’s Victims “La Merced” in whose
benefit the performance was given.
Free-wheeling inspiration holds
the attention, the rehearsed product quickly becomes tiresome
The show titled “Del Sol Naciente al Compás
de Jerez” premiered in Japan in 2004 obtaining first
prize in the category of dance at the Festival Artístico
organized by the Japanese Cultural Ministry. It is a dignified,
carefully-constructed show aside from the flaws any Spanish
company might have, and which this presentation has. This
sort of work might be classified as “global flamenco”,
not because of any fusion contained therein, because the content
is strictly traditional, but rather because it presents a
style born of dance schools and rehearsal studios. You don’t
need to be a foreigner to lack real-life experience, and in
that sense it makes no difference whether you were formed
in Madrid or Tokyo.
The opening number is siguiriyas danced by Mayumi, “Mami”,
with castanets and bata de cola, two accessories of theatrical
flamenco in danger of extinction. Antonio Malena, singer and
artistic director, keeps things in order and adds authenticity
with his cante. The dancer has an astonishingly flexible spinal
column which allows her to carry out surprising contortions
that are out of place. Silences are lacking. Anzonini del
Puerto got it right when he said that the most difficult thing
in flamenco dance is standing still.
The soleá por bulería of Hiroki, the lead male
dancer, is far more convincing. He clearly admires Farruquito
and his compás tastes real. He has enough self-confidence
to smile at the audience – few male dancers can do so
without appearing ridiculous – and there’s a certain
Next up, a respectable cante solo of taranto in the voice
of Mateo Soleá, and from this point on it’s the
cante and compás of those who carry it that give form
to some run-of-the-mill dances and rather shoddy choreography.
The male dancers come off quite a bit better than the women,
but in actual fact, we’ve seen Spanish groups do worse.
Anzonini del Puerto got
it right when he said that the most difficult thing in flamenco
dance is standing still
There’s a sort of fiesta finale halfway through, and
an excessively long ‘serranas’ danced by Hiro,
less impressive than his opening dance. Free-wheeling inspiration
holds the attention, the rehearsed product quickly becomes
tiresome. Speed-ups and sudden stops and lots of histrionics
mar a dance that ends in the traditional manner with the cante
of María Borrico.
Tonás and siguiriyas, and the Andalusian cadence begs
for a respite that never arrives. Fandango por soleá,
that variation on fandangos which became so popular towards
the end of the “cante bonito” era and was so unfairly
sidelined thereafter, is effectively danced by Mami despite
some gymnastics. The lady offers a Japanese take on flamenco
that needn’t cause any conflict if wisely administered.
After two hours we arrive at the closing number which is
a half-hearted representation of a wedding with the bride
and groom dressed in black and lots of ‘alborea’,
the traditional wedding song.
A very “admirable” show.