Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company: Solera – Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Reviewer: Alice Kennedy

Director: Jude Kelly

Flamenco has always been a beautiful combination of rigidity and fluidity, and the seamless transition between the two. However, Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company’s Solera takes this to new heights with older and younger performers taking to the stage. In this production, we see the blending of traditional Flamenco and contemporary forms of the art. The dynamic cast collaborates consistently with each other throughout the performance, highlighting the transition between youth and maturity, neither being superior, but existing simultaneously to create a mesmeric piece.

The first act brings us behind the scenes and into the usually protected rehearsal space of our actors. Here we can witness the creation of art, and see the joyful nature in which the cast works together to form the production. The passion each member has for their art is inspiring, as the audience witnesses the dedication to their craft first-hand. The first half is naturalistic and allows us to see the palpable emotion the artists feel for their work. The audience is captured by the percussive dance and soaring voices that highlight the excellent musicianship.

The second half is a spectacular display of the craftsmanship of this cast. The specificity of their movements is paired beautifully with the flow of their emotions. The opening scene portrays stunning visuals, featuring dancers in white, and musicians in black, creating a beautiful contrast of darkness and light and an atmosphere that keeps the audience enraptured.

There are solo, duet and group dances, each providing something unique. The solo dances highlight the talent that each artist has, as well as the command they can take of the stage. The duets provide spectacular storytelling, featuring sensuality, love, betrayal and aggression. The group pieces are a joyous celebration of the art of Flamenco, as we can see the expressive joy each artist conveys while dancing together. The synchronicity in which the dancers conduct themselves within group pieces is impeccable and is highlighted by the talented work of the guitarists. Even when there is only guitar playing, the emotional nature in which they play, means you can almost hear the words the guitars are playing.

Jude Kelly as director of the show is excellent as there is hardly a moment where the audience is not caught by each syllabic dance move. Whether you have never experienced Flamenco, or are a lifelong fan, there is something new to discover and experience with Solera.

Runs until 20 April 2024

Memorias, a film by Ben Williams featuring Paco Pena in his hometown in Córdoba, Spain, will be available on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage for free from 9 April 2024, as part of the Elixir Festival.

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