Text: Estela Zatania
Photos: Ana Palma
Friday, February 22nd, 2013. Jerez de la Frontera
THE BIGGEST JEREZ FLAMENCO EVENT GETS UNDERWAY
Let’s start with some figures: 50 shows, 6 world premieres, 44 courses and workshops in 16 days and visitors from 38 countries. The Festival de Jerez which just started its seventeenth edition, is the most prestigious flamenco and Spanish dance event in the world. It’s a curiosity that Jerez, famous for singers and guitarists, chose precisely to hold a dance festival, but it works, even in the face of airline strikes, serious economic problems and the rainy weather we’re experiencing.
This year the festival organization incorporated a system of dispensing information to Iphone and Android systems, an interesting novelty for the many foreigners who come into town this time of year. On the local level, we’re also seeing a revival of the “tabancos”, old taverns (or new ones decorated to look old) that encourage a flamenco atmosphere or even program modest shows with local artists who are not necessarily amateurs. If in other years the presentation of live shows or spontaneous musicians without the required municipal permits was an invitation to police intervention, now the tabancos are not only tolerated, but provide an outlet for out-of-work flamencos, while at the same time livening up the streets and helping to give credence to the myth that in Jerez “everyone sings flamenco”.
LAS CINCO ESTACIONES
Teatro Villamarta, 9:00pm.
The inaugural gala of the Festival de Jerez was a production of its own under the direction of Francisco López, previous director of the event. The concept of “Cinco Estaciones” refers to imaginary stops we all make along the road of life: “memories, places, dreams, desires that get derailed, waiting-rooms for the final voyage” as the director himself explained. It’s a broad enough idea to be applied to any artistic endeavor without getting in the way, on this occasion, of good solid singing, dance and guitar.
The five dancers on this mission are Blanca del Rey, Marco Flores, Olga Pericet, Laura Rozalén and Mercedes Ruiz, all as soloists. The star of the evening, judging from the applause and my own criteria, was Marco Flores. Hands down. His unerring elegance, his artistic sensitivity based on knowledge, and the imagination and capacity to put it all together in his trim form make for a very flamenco style, while at the same time contemporary, without resorting to contrivances. Also noteworthy is a caña duet with the wonderful Olga Pericet where they lay out a new take on coupled flamenco dance which hadn’t been renewed in any significant way since Pilar López danced with Alejandro Vega more than sixty years ago.
A guajira of Laura Rozalén with the recorded voice of Pepe Marchena, and a zambra in the style of Caracol, aim to pay tribute to old-time flamenco, but come off simply as outdated. Veteran dancer Blanca del Rey, yet again has come out her much-publicized retirement to delight one and all with her soleá del mantón. The lady strolls around the stage at ease with the pride and countenance of the flamenco monarch she is; each ookgesture, each breath reflects her years of experience. As did the other dancers after their respective performances, she took a long expansive bow, something not usually seen in this type of work.
Mercedes Ruiz with Santiago Lara on guitar, defends Jerez with a siguiriya that could have lasted half as long and been twice as powerful, and wherein the dancer exhibits her command of castanets. Olga Pericet took on abandolao compás with a bata de cola, castanets and traditional head-dress of the mountains of Málaga, reflecting the evolution from folklore to flamenco these forms are undergoing.
Paco Serrano’s guitar solo of siguiriyas played in E position was admirable despite not having the intended feeling of serrana. Marco Flores followed with peteneras, and this was where the creativity of guitarist Antonia Jiménez could truly be appreciated. A long scene titled “La Última Estación” (the last stop), the only piece not based on flamenco, but on quartet no. 14 of F. Schubert, and in which Blanca del Rey danced with Mercedes Ruiz, “La joven y la muerte”, with the voice of soprano Inmaculada Salmoral, subtracted coherence and was an unexpected down after the flamenco energy that had preceded.
Of the three terrific singers, Miguel Lavi, a young Jerez man who, for unknown reasons receives little attention in his hometown, was outstanding. Miguel Ortega again impressed with his knowledge and power.
Santiago Lara interpreted a guitar solo of bulerías “En-Balao”, a wink to his Jerez maestro, José Luis Balao, and the fiesta finale was an assortment of alegrías and cantinas lest anyone thing Jerez only knows bulerías.
COMPAÑÍA REHONDO: ARTE Y COSTUMBRE
Una experiencia plástica del flamenco
Sala Paúl, 12 midnightPainter: Gonzalo Conradi. Voice: Andrés de Jerez. Guitar: Carlos Grilo. Original idea: Miguel González Márquez.
At midnight in the Sala Paúl, the venue that receives the most daring, avant-garde or simply different shows, we attended an experiment by the Compañía Rehondo: Arte y Costumbre. “Different” it was. Added to the program at such a late date that it’s not included in the global program, it functions at two levels. At the same time that we are enjoying the rough-edged Agujeta-sounding cante of Andrés de Jerez, we observe painter Gonzalo Conradi create images, mostly abstract, of horses, women, or the occasional word such as “ojana” or “sentencia”, on large canvasses of about 2 by 3 yards. It’s an entertaining experiment, although it takes importance away from the cante without creating the “third dimension” that was intended according to the painter’s declarations. A delightful surprise was the guitar accompaniment of Carlos Grilo, known to most flamenco fans as a palmero.
As in other years, the night didn’t end with the final show of the main program. The series “De Peña en Peña”, this night offered shows by some of the best local artists at the Peña Fernando Terremoto and the Bereber tablao.