XV FESTIVAL DE JEREZ
Text: Estela Zatania
It’s starting to feel like spring in Jerez de la Frontera. Every year, since fifteen years ago, when the brief temperate Andalusian winter begins to lose credibility, the city that promotes itself as one of the most flamenco in the world, fills with followers of flamenco dance who come to enjoy two weeks of a wide range of shows, and an ample offering of parallel activities.
The first event of the Festival de Jerez whose program barely reflects the difficult economic moment which has come down hard in Spain and Andalusia, was the opening, at the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, of an exposition titled “Cuando la Pintura se Hace Baile” (‘when painting becomes dance’), an interesting collection of original paintings and sketches by dancer Vicente Escudero in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of his death. The collection belongs to dancer José de la Vega who spontaneously offered a sample of his dancing to those present in the gallery.
DANZACALÍ, DANZAR DE LOS GITANOS
First dancer: Antonio el Pipa, Second dancer: Juan Amaya. Dance soloist: Isaac Tovar. Female soloists: Macarena Ramírez, Nazaret Reyes. Corps de ballet: Ana Ojeda, Luz Mª de la Herez, Marta Mancera, Cynthia López, Manuel Ramírez, Antonio Vázquez, Manuel del Río, Juan C. Avecilla. The children: Cristián de los Reyes, Miguel Rivero. Cante: Juana la del Pipa, Felipa del Moreno, Mara Rey, Joaquín Flores. Guitar: Juan José Alba, Javier Ibáñez. Violin: Emilio Martín, Cajón/percussion: Luis de la Tota. Percussion: Curro Santos.
There are different kinds of clichés. And nearly always some grain of truth in even the most common ones. They say polkadots and tambourines are the biggest flamenco clichés. Frankly, I’ve never seen a flamenco dancer with a tambourine, however, my best gypsy friends, well-dressed people of discerning taste, love polkadots, so I don’t know… But then there are clichés that trigger that feeling that makes you squirm in your seat or glance downward. “Danzacalí, Danzar de los Gitanos” as Antonio el Pipa’s most recent work which debuted last night at the Villamarta Theater is called, comes dangerously close to the cliché zone. Nevertheless it must also be noted that not only is it what we expect from el Pipa, but what his most diehard fans want him to deliver.
And this isn’t to say that Antonio el Pipa, born into the most noble Jerez flamenco lineage, doesn’t know how to dance. He does. A lot. He is a great dancer, like it or not. Some people can’t stand his extravagant style that shows a strong dose of the great Antonio (the ironic grins, the expressive hands and the occasional abuse of shoulder-shrugging can only be attributed to the latter). Others, the fans who continually shout “you’re the greatest, Antonio!” and similar words of approval whenever Pipa comes on stage, are mad about him. The Villamarta didn’t quite fill up, something we can attribute to generalized belt-tightening, but almost, and the dancer did not let his fans down. He committed his accustomed extravagances, was occasionally over the top, danced with absolute command and delighted the audience.
The well-defined beginning of “gypsies living in the open air, singing and dancing their joy and suffering”, gradually becomes diluted, the (dubious) pretext is forgotten and it all boils down to a show which can only be described as conventional – and I do not mean that in a derogatory sense. Nowadays, the performer who manages to sell classic flamenco is deserving of our greatest admiration. Because if it’s a question of choosing between the clichés of traditional flamenco (intensity, color, the search for emotion via the rhythms of flamenco), and those of the avant-garde (coldness disguised as sophistication, absence of color, austerity that limits emotional displays and a lack of interest in the rhythms of flamenco), I’ll take the former. After all is said and done, ideologies mean nothing, and what counts is the impact of the experience provided by any artistic representation.
“Danzacalí” is a vehicle for Antonio el Pipa to again dance what he always dances, without it seeming repetitious, and that’s fine with me. At worst, the weak staging and insufficient lighting that did not allow us to see the dancers’ faces were the most negative aspects.
El Pipa is part of the recuperation of the flamenco dance couple, and frankly, he looks very good partnering Moron dancer Juana Amaya as both are of a similar temperament and generation: her darkness nicely complements his more luminous style. The percussionist promoted to singer was not a good idea, but the two female singers from Jerez, Mara Rey and Felipa del Moreno, did what they could. Juana la del Pipa put the habitual icing on the cake, but there was the need for a singer of substance to back up this eminently flamenco show.
Soleá, tientos, siguiriyas, taranto, alegrías, rondeña which continues to gain importance within the repertoire of flamenco dance…nothing new under the sun, nor need there be. “Danzacalí” is Antonio el Pipa in his own particular element and ambience, with no greater ambition that to put his concept of flamenco on the table and have us accept it at face value.
At midnight, the first informal after-hours show took place at the Fernando Terremoto flamenco club, and thus ended the first day of the 2011 Festival de Jerez.