Israel Galván – La Fiesta – London

Israel Galvan in <I>La Fiesta</I>.<br />© Aliaksandra Kanonchenka. (Click image for larger version)
Israel Galvan in La Fiesta.
© Aliaksandra Kanonchenka. (Click image for larger version)

Israel Galván
La Fiesta

27 April 2019
London, Sadler’s Wells

After the performance, there is the after party. After polished, practised perfection, there is the drunken Puckish mayhem of creative spirits set free. It’s something of this intoxicated, anarchic spirit that the flamenco artist Israel Galván wants to capture in La Fiesta, his latest rule-trashing, genre-bending show. Galván is the son of dancers and spent his unconventional childhood at after parties, and there is something childlike in the bemusing cacophony and surreal humour of La Fiesta.

Much like his previous show, FLA.CO.MEN, with which it shares quite a few elements, this was 90 minutes of never knowing quite what was going to happen next; too rich for some of the first night audience, who walked out – but a liberating experience if you had the stomach for the ride.

Israel Galvan in <I>La Fiesta</I>.<br />© Laurent Philippe. (Click image for larger version)
Israel Galvan in La Fiesta.
© Laurent Philippe. (Click image for larger version)

The flamenco singers Niño de Elche and Uchi begin by deconstructing a cante; to the sounds of their broken yelps, Galván, scraped-back hair held with a flowered clip, crabwalks on stage, then performs perfect zapateo sitting down, then lying on his back. Tall, slim, clad in bicycle shorts and football socks, Galván moves with a liquid grace; he adds touches of camp and kitsch with stylish ease, and can even make dancing with his trousers round his ankles look elegant, flicking them as though they were a bata de cola. The complex compás of flamenco courses through his body, and his ability to keep up a fast and furious zapateo is extraordinary, as though he had been plugged into the mains.

It’s a while before he allows himself to take centre-stage, though; instead he’s happy to join in as his eight fellow performers run riot around the space. The Tunisian singer Alia Sellami, who glides on to the stage on a wheeled stool, flits between bluesy jazz, opera and melismatic Arabic song; Niño de Elche’s solo turns into a burlesque act as the burly singer drops his trousers and rubs his nipples suggestively. The dancers Jesús Aguilera and Ramón Martínez, clad in Real Betis tracksuits, act as a clowning pair, bringing a rowdy energy and comic swagger to proceedings and, in one memorable scene, joining Galván jumping on tables with spring-loaded legs (like children jumping on mattresses) and sending showers of metal confetti to the floor.

But even when they settle to a more traditional tablao, Galván hasn’t finished toying with us, playing out rhythms on his teeth, then wilfully confounding us by dancing on a miked-up platform with his legs tantalisingly hidden from view – his amplified invisible footwork ringing out a perfect rhythm and making the theatre shudder. And it’s this superlative skill underpinning the avant-garde madness that makes La Fiesta a party to remember.

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