Maria Pags, Sonia Fernandez, Isabel Rodriguez, Ma de Mar Jurado, Jose Antonio Jurado, Alberto Ruiz, Jose Barrios, Paco Berbel
On paper Maria Pags Autorretrato might sound remarkably similar to Eva Yerbabuenas Lluvia which appeared at Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival last week, but in actuality Pages’ show is a far more extravagant piece.
In both shows, the dancing is clean and sharp, and both Flamenco dancers use their creations to delve deep inside themselves.
But whilst Yerbabuenas show is predominantly about solitude, with dancing so edgy that it sometimes verges on haunting, Pags piece is a more exuberant affair, as frequently flashy as it is reflective. Since both shows are manifestations of the dancers own selves, I can only assume that they have very different personalities.
Pags created Autorretrato to learn more about herself. This point reveals itself most clearly in a dance where a mirror follows her around the stage, reflecting every move that she makes. Towards the end, the closer she peers into it, the further it moves away from her as if showing how self-realisation can never be entirely fulfilled.
In direct contrast to such overt self-analysis, other solo dances are more flamboyant, and bring out Pags trademark arm movements to the full. As she stamps and turns, her arms twist above her head in giant arching movements that are at once exuberant, lyrical and sensual. These culminate in her whipping her shawl from her shoulders and circling it around her body in ever increasing whirls of fury.
Pags is supported by a superb eight-strong ensemble who also convey a wide range of emotions. At one end, there is a piece that explores identity by seeing individuals stand in large picture frames so that they themselves become portraits. Within each frame the first person is joined by a second, possibly suggesting marriage, and then a third to hint at a family. At the other end, the ensemble dance with such youthful panache that Pags chooses to break them up to start a number on her castanets, as if saying move over children, watch the old pro!
If the dancing, however, is impeccable, the drama leaves a little more to be desired. Certain dances seem to lack a beginning, a middle and an end, and finish abruptly with not all of the associated ideas having been fully developed. In addition, whilst one never expects a narrative in the conventional sense, the order in which the frenetic and more insular numbers come about does not always make for a smooth running and appropriately textured affair.
Nevertheless, the swift transitions from one style to another also mean that our attention is never allowed to wander over this ninety-minute piece that contains some of the most flamboyant, yet technically precise, Flamenco that you are ever likely to see.
Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival 2010 continues until 27 February. Further details can be found at SadlersWells.com