REVIEW: Jaleo Flamenco performed A Compás, at Alnwick Playhouse, on Tuesday, September 30.
By 8.30pm on Tuesday, I couldn’t have felt more like I was in southern Spain unless I was sweltering in the afternoon sun in a stone arena watching a bullfight.
The relatively balmy evening, for Northumberland at the end of September, perhaps helped, but it was much more to do with the engrossing, absorbing and very impressive display of dance and song that Jaleo Flamenco had brought to the Playhouse stage.
The acclaimed company, which has been performing globally for more than 25 years, has returned to the UK after three years with its latest stage show – A Compás.
Meaning in rhythm, the show certainly began in line with the title, with a frenzy of handclaps, foot stomps and walking sticks knocking on the stage in what is known as a martinete, which has its origins in the blacksmith’s forge.
The cast of just six – two guitarists, one singer and three dancers, one of whom also sang – performed an excitingly wide array of styles from across Andalusía.
The show also represented a veritable showcase of the whole flamenco experience, with different songs providing more or less of a focus on the dazzling footwork, the virtuoso guitar-playing or the yearning and passionate vocals.
I found that the longer second half of the performance was more successful because, to my untrained eyes and ears, it was more varied in terms of both music and movement.
I also thought it was more exhilirating when more than one dancer was involved at once and the two pieces that bookended the second half did just that.
Plus there was a respite from the passion and power, when guitarist El Inglés took centre-stage and wowed the audience with his intricate fretwork and strumming.
But the night did really belong to the dancers and the three main solo pieces in the second half – Maria José Leon’s intense performance of the siguiriya, Ana Blanco’s Cuban-influenced guajiras involving hand-held fans, and Adolfo Vega’s quick-stepping alegrías – were all equally spectacular.