Gala Bienal de Sevilla – Giraldillos ( photo Antonio Acedo)
There was a high level of anticipation amongst the visitors to Sadler’s Wells for the Flamenco Festival Gala entitled Gala Bienal de Sevilla. Part of the excitement was the show was packed with award winners from Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla in 2014. Every other year, Seville holds one of the most important events in the flamenco world, the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla. After 80 shows over four weeks, there are awards called Giraldillo which are awarded to exceptional artists.
In 2014, the winning artists included Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía (awarded top prize for best show with Imágenes); Farruquito (best dancer); legendary singer ‘El Lebrijano’ (honoured for his artistic career); Antonio Reyes (best singer); and Manuel Valencia (best guitarist).
Gala Bienal de Sevilla – Ballet Flamenco of Andalucía – Imágenes (photo Antonio Acedo)
For the opening of the evening’s entertainment, the Sadler’s Wells stage was bare except for a row of chairs. Gradually members of the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía populated the stage and the chairs with a series of dances which paid homage to previous members of the ensemble. Using large shawls to swirl around their bodies, both the male and female dancers entered a show that had its own particular rhythm and flow that celebrated the individual dancers skills but more so the collective spirit of the group.
It was not the collective but a sole guitarist that occupied the stage next, Manuel Valencia who had won his Giraldillo for his original contribution to traditional guitar-playing. In this performance he illustrated why he is considered one of the best flamenco guitarists entrancing the audience with the powerful rhythms and intricate patterns of his music.
There was a special welcome for the legendary singer ‘El Lebrijano’ who despite being in his seventies provided evidence of why he is revered in the flamenco world, if he lacks some of the power of the younger singers, he more than makes up for it with his melodic and subtle interpretations of his songs. His unhurried, unique delivery offers a refined, well-worn voice that blends passion with experience.
In complete contrast was the singing voice of Antonio Reyes who was next on stage whose powerful and intense approach leads him to almost spit out the words with tremendous vitality. Reyes sings from the soul with such emotional intensity that at the end of each song, he steps back to compose himself before accepting the applause.
Farruquito by Sophie Mühlenburg
The last artist of the night was one of the most anticipated, Juan Manuel Fernandez Montoya otherwise known as ‘Farruquito’ is the grandson of the legendary gypsy dancer El Farruco who is one of the most celebrated figures in flamenco dance. Each time he danced was like a mini explosion of power and skill, his charismatic stage manner delighted the audience who became quickly aware of his star quality. Each dance built into a remarkable crescendo of action before ‘Farruquito’ strutted across the stage to his accompanying guitarist and singers.
The whole ensemble then appeared on the stage to take the enthusiastic applause of the audience. Flamenco is very much a collective experience, the artist receives encouragement and praise from his fellow performers and sometimes from the audience which often receives a generous response. Many of the greatest artists on the stage tonight are rightly revered in the flamenco world but part of that greatness is the intense relationship that they have with their fellow performers and the audience.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
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