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Review 1, 2-8: Long Train Running
Maya & Martin Wrap it Up
Copyright 2005 Josephine Leask
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LONDON -- Marking the
end of London's Flamenco Festival, held at Sadler's Wells, "Flamenco
de Camara" was certainly a finale which brought the house down.
This women-powered double-act of singer/musical director Mayte Martin
and dancer/choreographer Belen Maya was joined by two outstanding
guitarists, Juan Ramon Caro and Jose Luis Monton, a violinist, Olvido
Lanza, and two feisty clappers, Sara Barrero and Susana Medina to
make up an impressive chamber group. Seen January 30, they presented
a program of nine different flamenco pieces, some performed by the
entire group, some solos for the cante and others solos for the
other musicians. "Flamenco de Camara," which means "chamber flamenco,"
focuses on the intense relationship between music and dance within
flamenco, exploring them as if they were a pair of lovers or friends
who are symbiotically linked even though they possess such different
characters. The series of dialogues -- whether between guitars and
violin or singer and dancer -- are highly expressive and emotional
and seem to delve deep into the very essence of what flamenco is.
Often in flamenco, the
dancer personifies the woman and the singer the man, and they enact
a game of conquest and submission which is all too predictably charged
with melodramatic lashings of sexual tension. However, with Martin
and Maya some of the more commercial and stereotypical passions
as well as the inflated egos that are flaunted by many flamenco
performers are replaced by modesty, deep mutual respect and understanding.
Arriving on a journey from their own personal artistic positions,
they join forces rather than battling each other into submission,
but still exude plenty of passion and emotion in the process. This
is flamenco without its macho baggage, and as a result is highly
sophisticated and elegant. I couldn't help thinking that the reason
for this more refined interpretation of the flamenco experience
was because "Flamenco de Camara" was a women-directed, women-performed
show, apart from the two male guitarists.
Martin and Maya each
have a profoundly strong stage presence but not one that overshadows
the other musicians, because they work very much as a team. Whenever
they perform together it is mesmerizing. Each seems to bring something
new and subtle to her particular craft; with Maya it is frequent
stooping movements and changes in level, while with Martin it is
complex rhythms. There are moments when they both seem to be improvising
around what the other one is doing, so the result is refreshingly
experimental. While Maya dances with incredible virtuosity, it is
never showy; she never abandons integrity for instant gratification
of her audience, which is consequently left wanting more and more.
Even when she dances slower, quieter pieces she still exudes a charisma
which is much more about her skill as an artist than her ego.
When they first appear
onstage, Maya is dressed in a white, long-trained traditional flamenco
gown, Martin in a black suit. They look like a couple getting married.
Maya is so focused on Martin that initially the audience doesn't
get a look in, but they need to establish their intense relationship
before she projects her performance outwards. Much of Maya's choreography
is influenced by skillful management of the flouncing yards of material
on her dress. It seems so cumbersome, yet she uses it imaginatively
as a prop for her dancing. She displays her magnetic force over
Martin by ensnaring her, wrapping the material round the singer's
feet whenever she tries to walk away.
One of the most awesome
pieces is one which has a very celebratory feel and is performed
by the whole group. Maya is adorned in vivid yellow, again wearing
a dress with an impossibly long train. She really dominates this
act with her exuberant stamping, her bull-like charging movements,
her clapping, and her wild experimentation with tricky rhythms as
she visually interprets the music. She prolongs the act with her
incredible stamina and energy. The audience holds its breath and
just when we think it's no longer possible for her to continue,
she explodes in another flurry of movement.
This is spectacular
flamenco. Both the dancing and the music compliment each other and
Maya and Martin seem to have forged a new direction within the genre
of flamenco. One that is more experimental, that is pared down uncluttered
by arrogance, tricks and cliche and consequently far more effective
at expressing the vivid colors and subtle textures of flamenco.
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