Unexpected Galván: guest review

Man dancing in spotlight with singer to left and musicians to right. It is dark.

Israel Galván and company performing La Fiesta at Sadler’s Wells. (c) Carole Edrich, 2019

It is with considerable embarrassment that I make the following confession: I, Kate Coleman, flamenco dancer and aficionado, had not until this month seen Israel Galvan, one of the most talented and innovative flamenco dancers of his generation.  Mea. Maxima. Culpa.  This deplorable situation was rectified last Saturday when a meeting with a colleague in the café at Sadler’s Wells overran.  Said colleague, a dance photographer, needed to attend the press call for Galvan at Sadler’s Wells, but we had not yet finished.  She suggested I come along, sit at the back and afterwards we could pick up where we had left off.  Free flamenco?!  Absolutely!!  Staff at Sadler’s kindly agreed and we sat in the foyer chatting, as the photographers assembled.

Man dancing in spotlight with singer to left and musicians to right. It is dark.

Israel Galván and company performing La Fiesta at Sadler’s Wells. (c) Carole Edrich, 2019

Inside the auditorium, whilst the photographers set up their equipment and got into position, Galvan was on stage discussing that evening’s performance with his musicians, singers and technical staff.  And then he danced.  An alegrias.  Literally ‘happiness’ this form, or palo to use the correct term, is lively and upbeat.  One of the ‘cheerful ones’.  Not one of the ‘angsty ones’.  But this is Galvan and this was unlike any alegrias I had ever seen or danced.

 

Was there joy?  Certainly.  A profound joy, that can only be understood simultaneously with the struggle and pain of existence.  Set to an accompaniment of moans, wails and rhythmic chanting, the repetitive ‘aleluja’ establishing tempo and mood, this alegrias was an elegy to existence, a philosophical treatise, communicated with profound intent.

 

Punctuated with the gunshot of Galvan’s razor sharp footwork, Galvan crafted this piece via a series of contradictions, opposites skillfully intertwined, the various pairings separating then recombining, producing new textures, new emotions.  Fluid and graceful, the sweeping arc of his limbs carved the space around him. At other times his body was angular and broken, fluttering staccato embellishments of his hands communicating the tremors of the soul.  The intellectual side to Galvan cannot be ignored.  That afternoon, he thoughtfully poses a series of questions: a master of deconstruction, he manipulated the rhythm and structure, challenging us to re-examine this most familiar of palos.  How should we understand the rhythm, the structure, the movements, the emotional energy of the piece?  The answers are revelatory.

 

Without death, life loses its vibrancy.  Without darkness and pain, happiness is meaningless.  Without the visceral, the spirit cannot soar.  At that moment, to an audience of a dozen or so photographers intent on capturing his uniqueness in a single frozen moment, Galvan showed us the true meaning of alegrias, of happiness.  It was a privilege to witness.

 

This post first appeared on the DanceGRiST Patreon
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Kate is a flamenco dancer and balletomane accustomed to writing highly academic scientific papers. I believe this is her first blog post or review.

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