FESTIVAL DE FLAMENCO DE NIMES
Text: Estela Zatania
Dance: Belén López. Cante: Saúl Quirós, David de Jacoba. Guitar: Carlos de Jacoba, Carlos Jiménez. Percussion: Rafael Jiménez “El Chispa”. Violin, Fernando García.
What a delight to once again be in Nimes, this little flamenco corner in the south of France, with such an affinity for things Spanish, it’s like Spain’s French subsidiary. And good weather this year – the sunshine is almost as warm as the laidback after-hours atmosphere of artists, journalists and others involved in the festival. Not as big as the Bienal de Sevilla, nor as small as a pueblo festival, Nimes is the prototype medium-size flamenco event.
In preceding days there have been some heavyweight performances. On Friday, the impressive Seville dancer Andrés Marín with his “Pasión Según se Mire”, one of his best works to date, a shared recital with Lole Montoya and Luis Zambo, nostalgia and Jerez flavor, the much-loved Moraíto Chico with a solo recital and last night, dancer Belén López.
I saw her when she was only 8 dancing with all the rhythm and rage of the true artist she is, and I remember thinking at the time, “we’ve got flamenco dance for some years to come thanks to this girl”. I saw her at the Córdoba contest in 2004 where she won the “Mario Maya” prize and danced well despite a flawed presentation. And I saw her again last night. At 24, it’s still too soon to talk about artistic maturity, nevertheless, her long career allows and demands a serious critique.
There are lesser artists who achieve magnificent interpretations, and others of extraordinary ability they do not administer adequately. Belén López belongs to the latter group. She is extraordinary, no doubt about it. But she wants to show you everything she can do, right now if not sooner. And it’s a pity, because her over-zealousness kept her from connecting with most of the French audience, despite warm grateful applause.
Belén takes most of her inspiration from the Farruco school, and at this point in time, 2011, she is one of the youngest interpreters of classic flamenco dance, exhibiting the vestiges of the best of twentieth century flamenco dance. And this earns my profound respect, because she continues to defend forms which others her age find excessively limiting. She seeks and finds herself, with no need for a story line, within the same framework Carmen Amaya and Farruco senior worked, with a temperamental style based on strength, intensity, speed and footwork, all of which reveals the many years of tablao work which also surely explains the blowing of kisses to the audience and odd screams at certain moments.
Her singers are unabashed Camarón clones, another nearly extinct fashion, while the original article continues to be relevant. We were able to enjoy David de Jacoba, a regular in Paco de Lucía’s group who, in the last Bienal de Sevilla was missing the subltety he found last night in Nimes.
Once again, deficient lighting. The six backup musicians were seated in the classic line of chairs, but only the first and sixth members were illuminated. The rest, including the singers, appeared as black ghosts, which became especially annoying in the long instrumental/vocal solos where it felt like listening to the radio. The dancer’s movements were visible up to a point, but very little of her facial expressions, so important in flamenco dance.