- Posted by Julia Burns
- On June 2, 2022
- Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells
By Graham Watts
After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the London Flamenco Festival is back with a bang (21 June – 2 July), bringing several flamenco legends to headline the festival alongside some of the art form’s rising stars in a programme that emphatically focuses on flamenco’s familial legacies.
In previous years, any one of Manuel Liñan, Ana Morales, Estrella Morente, Jesús Carmona, Tomatito or María Pagés would have been a major draw for London-based lovers of the art but this summer, Sadler’s Wells will host all of them – and more – in twelve days of what promises to be an amazing portfolio of the best of flamenco, representing both its classical traditions and pushing boundaries in several directions through the contemporary development of nuevo flamenco.
In the vanguard of the avant garde is the bailaor Manuel Liñan who has long been admired for challenging gender stereotypes, joyfully expressing gay identity by showing great proficiency with the colourful costumes traditionally worn by bailaoras – the bata de cola and mantón (respectively, the dresses with long trains and large tasselled shawls). In previous shows, Liñan has exhibited his feminine virtuosity in isolated episodes punctuating his masterful command of the male repertoire, dominated by rigid upper bodies, bent legs and fast zapateado (the rhythmic drumming of the feet). But in İViva!, which premiered in Madrid in 2019 and will open the festival at Sadler’s Wells on 21/22 June, his all-male ensemble challenges flamenco tradition by building upon Liñan’s innovation and introducing another six male dancers to perform traditional alegrías, tàrantos, bulerías and escuelar bolera in the manner of, and dressed as, bailaoras.
At 42, Liñan is both a major force in nuevo flamenco and an openly gay artist now headlining a traditionally macho profession, and İViva! is his bold manifesto opening up flamenco to a new and inclusive age of enlightened diversity. Liñan will return to direct two former Ballet Nacional de España dancers, Daniel Ramos and Victor Martín, in Boreal, which will be shown in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 23 June and also promises the expectation of fans, shawls and castañets.
Gender equality will be balanced on 24/25 June with the Gala Fiesta de la Bulería de Jerez with an all-women cast performing Mujeres de CAL y CANTE led by Compañia Maria del Mar Moreno. The performance will feature Fuensanta “La Moneta” and Maria del Mar Moreno, alongside Pastora Galván (sister of Israel, and daughter of José). Her rich family heritage has made Galván a deeply expressive performer. These dancers will be supported by the deep expressive vocals of Juana la del Pipa, the legendary gypsy cantaora, now 74. Flamenco is also in her genes: she is the daughter of the legendary bailaora Tía Juana la del Pipa and took her mother’s flamenco name, which derived from her childhood activity of selling sunflower seeds (pipas).
Another great singing star, Estrella Morente, will return to the Flamenco Festival to give a concert on 26 June, in which her uniquely emotive voice will cover a curated collection of songs remembered from her childhood, exploring the depths of love and loss. Morente will be supported on stage by the singing of her brother, Enrique ‘Kiki’ Morente Carbonell.
Ana Morales is another artist whose work blends traditional and new flamenco. Born in Barcelona, in 1982, Morales brings her autobiographical show, Without Permission, Songs for Silence, to Sadler’s Wells for one night only (23 June). Mixing styles and flamenco forms, Morales’ show is influenced by memories of her Andalusian-born father and his connection to the art of flamenco.
Another Catalan superstar, born in Barcelona (in 1985), is Jesús Carmona who will return to the Festival with The Jump, following his sell-out show in 2019. Carmona is another former principal with Ballet Nacional de España and is skilful across multiple dance genres from ballet, through tap to the courtly dances of the 17th and 18th centuries and in The Jump he will push the envelope of flamenco by crossing these genres to explore multi-faceted aspects of male dance virtuosity.
Another returning Flamenco Festival regular is the outstanding nuevo flamenco guitarist, Tomatito (José Fernández Torres), now 63, who will be In Concert for one-night-only on 30 June, supported by an ensemble of outstanding musicians and an as yet unnamed dancer. This five-time Grammy Award-winner and former musical partner to the legendary cantaor, Camarón de la Isla, is famed for incorporating jazz in his flamenco toque, which is often improvised.
Sadler’s Wells again enjoys support in hosting the Festival from the Cervantes Theatre in Southwark, which will show three performances on successive nights from 23-25 June, beginning with Madrileño guitarist Yerai Cortés, followed by young nuevo flamenco cantaora, Ángeles Toledano (27), and then the musical ensemble, Pasion del Sur (Southern Passion), comprising cellist Irene Ortega and her brother, guitarist José Ortega, who will explore an interface between flamenco and classical music. These musical interludes will enjoy the intimate tablao surroundings of the Cervantes where the audience will be just a few metres away from the performers.
The Lilian Baylis Studio will also be busy throughout the festival. In addition to the aforementioned Boreal show, directed by Manuel Liñan, El Yiyo y su Troupe will bring new sounds and expressions, including the influence of the late Michael Jackson, to a self-titled show on 1 July; and fast-rising bailaora, Paula Comitre, will provide a concluding performance, following a week-long artistic residency, also on 1 July; a fusion of flamenco tradition and urban and electronic music follows on the next evening in Terca Cielo (Third Heaven) through the combination of talents in Rocío Márquez’ singing and Bronquio’s music; and, finally, the Festival will conclude later on 2 July with a dance and music party entitled Flamenco is not a crime, hosted by DJs Pedro and Benito Jimenez.
Appropriately, a flamenco superstar will bring the Sadler’s Wells main stage performances to a close on 1/2 July with Una Oda al tiempo (An Ode to Time) by Compañia María Pagés, which will bring an ensemble of sixteen onto the stage, led by Pagés herself. The preparations for this innovative show formed the backdrop for the BBC4 Danceworks documentary, shown during the pandemic, in May 2021. Una Oda al tiempo presents issues of transience, permanence and eternity. Pagés – amazingly, now 58 – has brought her own innovative aesthetic to bear on flamenco traditions and her shows are developed in association with her husband, El Arbi El Harti, who has both co-directed and provided dramaturgy and text for Una Oda al tiempo.
Pagés is the last of many great performers who will grace the 2022 Flamenco Festival, bringing the curtain down on a remarkable programme that will represent the widest spectrum of the art with diverse performances that both emphasise the deep hereditary roots of flamenco and push its boundaries into innovative and exciting territories.