FESTIVAL DE FLAMENCO DE NIMES
Text: Estela Zatania
The Nimes Festival came to a close on Saturday after an admirable program of activities, shoring up its place among the most noteworthy events of the international flamenco calendar. Fifty-seven performers, eleven major shows, conferences by Claude Worms, Pierre Lefranc, Estela Zatania, Juan José Téllez, Rubén Gutiérrez, even a “musical conference” with Diego Carrasco who explained the different facets of the bulería de Jerez, in addition to dance courses, exhibits and an extraordinary encounter with José Galván, Pastora Galván, Israel Galván and Eugenia de Los Reyes.
In the late afternoon, Lebrija singer José Valencia, one of the few young singers rigorously dedicated to the most classic sort of cante, gave an acoustic recital in the Palacio de Justicia accompanied by Miguel Iglesias. With accustomed energy, and his powerful voice, he sang a long soleá set, malagueña of Peñaranda with abandolao, cantiñas with a strong Lebrija flavor, hard-hitting siguiriyas, bulerías in taranto key and tonás for an encore.
The show “Mujeres”, the last gift to flamenco fans made by the great dancer Mario Maya before taking his leave so unexpectedly during the last Bienal de Sevilla, was one of the most successful works of 2008. Good staging, original carefully-worked choreographies, three splendid dancers. Although it’s not quite “the whole of women’s flamenco dance represented by three dancers” as the publicity touts, because there is nothing comparable for example to Manuela Carrasco, it is, nevertheless an admirable juxtaposition of well-defined personalities.
Having seen the show on several occasions, it’s a good moment to comment on its development and evolution. In Nimes, it was not the exceptional performance that took place in Cádiz just a few months ago. There was a distinct lack of energy, probably reflecting the sense of loss now that Mario Maya, the show’s artistic and spiritual guide, is no longer here to see the fruit of his labor.
There is no longer such emphasis on the recuperation of classic accessories of women’s flamenco dance – Belén Maya with fan, Rocío Molina with castanets, Merche Esmeralda with shawl – although they continue to be used in a delightful presentation that opens the show, and the excellent caracoles choreography created by Manuel Liñán. The tasty tangos with a Granada feeling where Belén, with surprising ease, combines forms that are classic yet contemporary, sensual yet geometric, is still one of the high points of the show.
Singer Antonio Campos is noteworthy, and his tonás trading off trillas with Jesús Corbacho has the audience rapt even though there is no guitar or dance. Merche Esmeralda in a polka-dot bata de cola is wonderful por soleá at a slow slow tempo, as used to be popular in the nineteen-seventies. The hypnotic dance of Belén and Rocío to romance, captures a timeless beauty.
Tamara Tañé’s singing solo remains as out of place in this show as before, and Rocío’s siguiriyas is full of magic and mystery, creating a nearly unbearable tension. The caracoles that ends the show, with all three women in bata de cola, is full of life and energy, and Mario the maestro is somewhere smiling contentedly.