Choreographer: Israel Galvan
Reviewer: T.L. Wiswell
Israel Galvan continues to sit on the top of the world of Flamenco, but rather than taking this position as one from which he can receive adulation, he seems to be looking around at his kingdom and saying, “Now what?” In 2014 this resulted in Torobaka, a collaboration with Akram Khan; but for the 2017, Galvan returned to Sadler’s for a solo show: Fla.Co.Men, which is billed as being “all about the music.” For a performer who has played his teeth with his fingernails before, this seemed very appropriate; Galvan creates music with his body just as much as he creates pleasing movement.
The show started with Galvan, in a cooking apron over a black t-shirt and jeans, standing in front of a music stand with a strange plaster boot on the ground nearby. It seemed as if he were reading, out loud, a recipe for creating dance, turning the pages as he went; this was translated into English with some humor by violist Eloisa Canton, who struggled with the “teeka tintals” of Indian classical music.
Eventually some other musicians drifted on stage, and Galvan moved toward them to engage them in dialogue. Appropriately for a person who is so focused on dance, Galvan was not worried about costume changes; his apron came off and was replaced by a corset for a while, but otherwise stuck to his pure black working outfit which kept the focus on his body and what he was doing with it. At times he was a pure dancer, his hands curling and uncurling as if he were releasing birds, and then butterflies, into the auditorium; his legs and feet whirling and stamping and blurring and making the floor quiver beneath him.
Galvan is more than a dancer, though, and demonstrated this heavily by playing some bass drums that were on stage (as well as using the plaster boot as a sort of flute). He needn’t have worked so hard, though, because he showed his talent and originality much more elegantly by playing the soles of his shoes as if they were a standard musical instrument. This was added to by his playing his body; rather appropriately, the drummer joined him and they did a body-as-instrument duet, using each other’s torsos to generate sound. It was both joyously inventive and gleefully democratic, Galvan displaying his egoless enthusiasm for artists of every stripe.
What made this show particularly memorable was the use of darkness and silence. There were at least two moments where the audience sat hushed in their seats for what seemed like five minutes while nothing happened on stage or elsewhere. One of these breaks was interrupted deliciously by Galvan walking around the front stalls seats, playing a drum and beating his heels on the floor, creating a moving point of noise for the crowd to experience with their ears as well as their bodies. This created a focus of experience; a chance to show that flamenco is not about whirling polka dotted skirts but about sound and music, and that it is as great of an art in the dark as it is under blazing lights. It was a great evening and the festival was shown once again to be for true aficionados by this excellent programme.
Reviewed on 16 February, 2017 | Image: Jean-Louis Duzert