Jose Porcel, two lovely ladies whose names I'm not acquainted with (go figure) and lets see.... two vocalists, one male, one female; a flute/harmonica player, a percussionist of some description received a standing ovation yesterday (16 Feb, 2011) for an endearing, enthralling, energetic Flamenco performance. Oh excuse me, Ballet Flamenco.
To be honest, I'm not very clear on where the Ballet came in. Perhaps Flamenco does not traditionally tell stories, and some the broad themes of the "items" (I'd so much rather they be called pieces) performed yesterday can be attributed to a Ballet influence.
I couldn't say.
What I can say though, is this. Jose Porcel is an incredible, incredible, incredible performer. He is cocky, cock sure, flamboyant, fiery and you can see he's giving you everything he's got. But I'm not a fan of the technique. I could very easily be very wrong, but the contrast between the clean, flowing lines of the female performers and the dervish like frenzy of Porcelo's act left me bewildered. It does not make sense to me that female Flamenco could be so beautiful and refined, and the male part so very undefined and composed of merely energy and footwork.
Oh, but the ladies. The synchronization was a bit off in places, which is a pity, because when they got that right, it was such a mesmerizing treat to watch. I love the arrogance and anger that underlies Flamenco. The bold lines, the graceful twirls, the lovely full skirts that these ladies breathe life into, making them rise with their pirouettes. The sleek, low bun that gives every turn of the neck greater definition and renders it clean and elegant. I could go on and on.
And good lord, the music. I have to say this- we could really learn something from the way that Porcel interacted with the musicians. For one, they were up front and centre, which, though it made focusing on the dancers a wee bit difficult, really enabled them to create a mehfil type atmosphere, and gave them equal respect.
Secondly, you could tell there was a lot of jugalbandi going on, a lot of interaction between the dancers and the musicians and that was just beautiful, because you saw an art form in a conversation with another art form.
Then there were the hoots and the exclamations from the musicians themselves. These came out of nowhere, and made the whole performance come alive and seem very accessible.
I have never witnessed a more relaxed and more audience friendly performance. The spectators were involved throughout, a bunch of emotive, gasping, clapping Indians responding to an equally emotive bunch of flamboyant Spaniards.
And the vocals. What power. I could feel tingles going up my spine and I thought, wow, this is what we share, two cultures going back centuries, with our unique and raw music that touches our souls directly. What amount of digital technology and tweaked vocals can give you that? That direct link to the emotions that are equally pure and raw?
Jose Porcel kissed Ambika Soni on each cheek, which elicited titters, giggling and gasps from the audience. Then the female vocalist stepped up and sang for about two minutes. She has this gorgeous, slightly husky, deepp deeepp deeep voice that she can hold for tens of seconds at impossible pitches.
There was clapping, there were cat calls, there was sweat flying off of the dancers, there were sharp head turns, and spotting, glares and gentle caresses, laughter and sighs, and good old Indian bureaucracy. Coming up for an encore, two of the musicians showed that they too can dance the Flamenco, and what more does an Indian audience appreciate than an unexpected shuffling of inexperienced feet, rendered with a touch of shyness and equally, a try this on for size attitude?
Lovely. Just lovely.