13 December 2012

South Africa: Lacklustre Celebration of Familial Flamenco Heritage

At the southern tip of Africa, we are privileged to be exposed to some of the best artistic performances from around the globe. Spoilt for choice, maybe. Demanding, definitely. The more we get, the more we want. So when Juana Vargas, artistic director of Cape Town's Flamenco Del Sur, announces a collaborative performance with the long-established Linda Vargas Flamenco Company from Durban, it attracts high expectations from the local dance community.

This show doesn't measure up

To the untrained eye, Familia Flamenco crosses the Ts and dots the Is of a traditional flamenco performance - there's the incredible skill of accompanying guitarist Demi Fernandez and a cast of appropriately costumed men and women dancing flamenco choreography, complete with audience-pleasing castanets in Sevillanas. For dance aficionados, however, this show doesn't measure up.

While the second half was better than the first, beginning with a rousing solo by the music maestro, most of the dancers fell short of igniting the audience with the fiery passion associated with performances in this genre. Fitness, for some, is one area that could be improved on for better delivery of the dance.

In another article, Linda Vargas's teenage son, Ramon Fernandez, describes flamenco as untamed energy that's released in spurts - a vital contributor to the audience's entertainment. And he certainly delivered!

Blessed with innate talent

What a pleasure to see such potential in a young dancer, blessed with innate talent. His footwork, as light as it is fast, is a solid base for the development of the strong upper body posturing and commanding hand and arm movements he will need in this role. His duet with his mother in Solea was beautifully executed, especially in shadow position, proving that Fernandez can control the quieter moments too.

La Mora Gitana (The Moorish Gypsy) is an interesting diversion, performed by Jules Armstrong, with Tangos by the women and Sevillanas by the full cast encouraging the dancers to relax and connect well with each other and the audience. The grace and elegance with which Bianca Fernandez held the stage cannot be ignored.

That said, it's encouraging to see so many family connections coming through in this show. Nine of the 13 members have blood ties and they dance to celebrate that element so important to gypsy culture. Long may that last!

Familia Flamenco is at The Little Theatre, Orange Street at UCT's city campus until 16 December, 2012.

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