Hawke's Bay Arts Festival / 22 October 2019 / By Ian Thomas
Ida Y Vuelta translates to there and back. ‘There’ is a place right in the centre of intertwined roots and influences that reach back hundreds of years, across continental borders, traversing cultures, empires, ethnicities and creeds. Flamenco is the love child of Andalusia or al-Andalus in the days of Arab rule, with a whakapapa branching back to North African and Indian ancestors. It is the music, dance, and theatre of the gitanos, the Roma. This evening’s performance is the story of flamenco, past and present. Ancient influences and more recent interpretations.
As is traditional the musicians open the show by setting the scene. Cajon flamenco (a strung cajon drum) and guitar solos warm the audience, demonstrating their virtuosity. The musicians are joined by singers and three dancers. A bright, joyful beginning as the dancers dressed in vibrant colours use all of their bodies to communicate emotions. They are supported, accompanied, and encouraged from the line of chairs behind them. As well as wailing song, clapping, stamping, and exclamations urge the dancers on. They dance in choreographed unison. Fast feet, swooping shoulders, spinning bodies, fingers clicking, hands gesturing, energy flowing into the audience.
The room is darkened between songs, cloaking the change of dancers and singers. The lights come up and another piece of the tapestry of the flamenco story is sewn in. South American and Cuban influences play a part.
The highlight of the first set is the solo dance of the lady in black. Hers is the improvised dance of old. We can see the wordless communication between her and the guitarist as they collaborate. Her dance is intense. Full of feelings of sorrow and defiance. Her footwork mesmerising.
Second set, enter Jay and his tablahs. As he tunes the drums he talks us through the language of the instrument as he plays. Building from short phrases, via the mimicked sound of a steam train up to a solo on two tabla we can hear the rhythm shared with flamenco. At that point the musicians and singers reassemble, the music augmented with tabla for the rest of the show.
The dance continues throughout costume and combination changes. Duets and solo pieces. The archetypal red dress and improvised steps, billowing contortions of torso and arms communicate the swarthy passion of Spain’s gitano tradition.
The audience are loud in their appreciation having sat transfixed throughout the well designed show. They reflect the passion back to the stage in applause and cheers.
The flamenco story is rich, spicy, and alluring. It’s musical fusion; the story of migrants; of cultures sharing and exchanging traditions, while developing new ones. In all, a beautiful endorsement of migration.
Tonight we’ve been treated to a wonderful rendition of flamenco.
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