Ruben Olmo, Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, Metáfora, flamenco, Pastora Galván, dance news
Rubén Olmo and the company of Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía in Metáfora
photo by Miguel Angel Gonzalez
Written with Ellen Dobbyn-Blackmore
The best way to approach a dance company lIke Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía is to establish in mind exactly what it is, and what it is not. That means we start with its artistic director, choreographer and resident star, Rubén Olmo. As a dancer trained in both classical ballet and flamenco dance traditions, Olmo, a native of Sevilla where the company is based, brings his own language of dance to bear in his work and that is reflected in the company's dancing. Olmo is not concerned with finding a label for what he does. The company is not just a showcase for traditional flamenco dancing because while Olmo is respectful of tradition he is focused on creating new forms and he lives fully in the present. Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía can then best be understood as a theatrical dance experience apart from the restrictive expectations of either traditional flamenco or classical ballet. This is a contemporary dance company that is firmly ingrained in flamenco, leavened with classical ballet and spiced by the unique theatrical sensibility of its artistic director.
Metáfora is a two part show, only the second of which is primarily a creation of Olmo. This is his first production for the company and it sends a clear signal of what the future brings for this company. The first part of the show is titled Suite Flamenca and it featured the more traditional roots of flamenco while the second part was an immersion into the world of Olmo's imagination. The men of the company danced powerfully in the Canela to open the show but were substantially upstaged by the women who followed them dancing the Cantiñas de Coral, a tribute to flamenco legend Matilde Coral. The piece was danced in traditional bata de cola dresses with long trains and mantones de Manila (shawls). The whipping of the mantones combined with the kicking of the trains is as traditional as one can possibly get and the women of the company danced with exuberance. Guest artist Pastora Galván joined the women and established that she was a true star by raising the flash of temperament and conviction that makes flamenco come alive with passion. She effortlessly stands apart in her ability to gather and release energy and tension.
A flamenco pas de deux, En Sueño, came third in the Suite Flamenca. Danced by soloists Eduardo Leal and Patricia Guerrero, this pas de deux is confusingly listed as being choreographed by Olmo, Leal and Guerrero. It does have, as its title suggests, a dreamlike quality and it is easy to see the balletic influence of Olmo's training with the beginnings of complex emotional narrative underlying the dancing. What it lacks is a language of partnering that is essential in a balletic pas de deux. What we see is mostly two dancers moving in tandem without enough touching. Leal is a graceful and sinuous dancer who looked at all times during the evening as though he was in his element and able to translate all the movement he was given into his own personal expression. Guerrero seemed less in her comfort zone here than she did elsewhere during the night.
When Pastora Galván returned to the stage for her solo turn, De los Reyes, the audience was ready. As a dancer and choreographer, Galván has much in common with her brother Israel who is another of the next wave of original flamenco visionaries out of Sevilla. The Galváns are a noted flamenco family (and childhood friends of Olmo) and this latest generation is breaking new ground as performing artists. Like her brother, Ms. Galván is not content to merely dance. She wants to take you somewhere.
In De los Reyes, a dance of her own creation, she is reaching for a higher level of expression that involves giving life to a swirling cast of characters. Galván has something to say beyond merely being a star attraction who relies on her personal magnetism to carry her performance. At times she was the campy preening diva, full of arrogant bombast and at other times she was playful and silly, as though she'd had one glass of wine too many. She is able to be regal one moment and, well... a little slutty the next. She has enormous expressive range and uses her braceo (arm movements) to express complexities of thought and emotion which establish her as an original artist in her own right. Every single thing she does is of interest and it frees her from the obligation to expend all her energy being technically impressive.
Andrew is a lifelong traveler and cook. Born into a military family, he became used to moving frequently and having to learn new things. He enjoys the rich variety of life. After a first career as a dancer with the Hartford Ballet and Ohio Ballet companies, Andrew did his undergraduate degree at the University of Akron and then went to Kent State for graduate school. All along the way he has been a cook in restaurants from New Orleans to New York City. Andrew also collaborates with his writing partner, Vikas Khanna, on cookbooks in addition to the Holy Kitchens film series. Andrew is the writer of Flavors First, recently published by Lake Isle Press. |