Flamenco Festival London: From White to Black
London, Sadler’s Wells
9 March 2014
Gallery of pictures by Foteini Christofilopoulou
Ángel Múñoz is the headline name for this show, a one-off performance as part of Sadler’s Flamenco Festival London 2014, and he as the sole dancer on stage is the dominating and controlling force. But much of the joy in the performance comes from the musicians he shares the stage with and whose skills provide the light and shade and changes of mood that sustain the performance inventively for its 80 minutes.
Some of the musical choices are much less traditional than you might expect. The work starts and ends with electronic music from Artomatico, a soundscape of murmuring noises which merged well with the percussive element added by the dance. Guitar (Javier Patino), percussion (Nacho López) and voice (Miguel Ortega, and José Ángel Carmona) are supplemented to great effect by saxophone, a sweetly soulful flute and mouth organ from Diego Villegas. The music director is Daniel Muñoz.
The title is From White to Black, but in fact the work itself proceeds in an opposite direction – the opening number is Negro and the closing number Bianco. Múñoz begins in a black suit before changing into white for the final section. The work’s stated aim in the programme is to trace “the contradictory meanings” of the dancer’s name as messenger or fallen angel. I’m not sure that all the finer nuances of that really registered, but it was a remarkably compelling performance from a charismatic performer, and it held the attention for its entire length. Each number had a different mix of musicians, and their individuality registered strongly.
The opening offers us the dancer dressed all in black against a black backdrop and a minimally lit stage. It is not ideal for following the finer points of Munoz’s snaking lines. It does concentrate attention on his hands, and what eloquent, exquisite hands they are. You can see the movement travel down the arm and through each individually articulated finger, each on its own curving path. By contrast, the dancer’s formidably fast footwork registered less on a visual level and more via sheer physical volume. The performance is amplified quite noticeably, sometimes to harsh effect. Some of the rapid-fire fusillade of steps register not just through the ears but via the vibrations that come up from the floor of the stalls.
In the closing section, when dressed in white, Múñoz’ limbs are easier to follow, the speed of his turns illuminated as yet more impressive. The audience response had become steadily more enthusiastic as the show progressed. In this final section it was good to see all the performers, who began as rather stern in expression, begin to smile and look more relaxed. Múñoz looked like a man who truly loves his work. The performance was greeted at the end by a standing ovation from a very passionate audience. This produced a sweetly goofy encore where the musicians got to do some dancing for a change, and all the performers looked ready for some serious partying. It would be good to see Múñoz return with further experiments in future Sadler’s festivals.