I like flamenco dance and music, and was thus particularly excited about this show; however, perhaps because I chose the wrong show out of the various nights on offer, or because the festival’s theme was not as I had anticipated - Isabel Bayón and Israel Galván’s show, Dju-Dju was spectacularly bad - so bad, in fact, that I noticed several audience members leaving halfway through the show.

For something billed as part of the Flamenco Festival, one would expect some, well, flamenco dancing. Instead, the audience were treated to a Jesus lookalike walking around the audience hugging random people, a keyboardist wearing, of all things, a dressing gown, and a white Christmas tree on remote-controlled wheels. Isabel Bayón, who is a classical flamenco dancer, hardly danced - there were only two scenes where she danced an appreciable amount of flamenco. Even then, these dances were only teasing - just as we thought we would finally get a decent amount of dancing, she stops - no dance lasted more than three minutes long.

When she did dance, Bayón was great - I caught snippets of the grandeur, energy and spontaneity of the flamenco art form that originated from the folk dancing of Southern Spain. There were elements of the dextrous footwork and fluid hand movements that make flamenco so well-loved.

Granted, the theme of this particular show was black magic and voodoo - practices that are entrenched in Gypsy culture, and thus, expressible in the flamenco dance form. However, I was expecting classical flamenco dancing inspired by motifs of black magic, but what we got was a bizarre narrative with flashing lights, stomping, lots of walking around, and only a light sprinkling of actual dancing. Perhaps I should have known better - the choreographer, Israel Galván, is known for his avant-garde twist on flamenco performances.

In this case, the ‘avant-garde’ flavour was excessive, so excessive that it was simply bizarre, and almost disrespectful. The comic elements, such as Jesus controlling the Christmas tree or Bayón riding her broomstick, quickly got tired and took on a crass flavour. I was almost angry watching it, angry at its debasement of the flamenco art form, and the joke on us that we were watching this thing on stage. At one point, the show was cut by a ridiculous video projected onto the stage, of some indistinct blurry footage that served no purpose whatsoever. In another instance, Bayón’s fellow dancers danced around while gliding around in a chair - what value that would add, I have no clue. Fortunately, this show is only on one night of the festival, and it is over. I am sure the other nights of the Flamenco Festival will be better, or at least I hope so. If you decide to attend, I wish you a more enjoyable experience.

1 Star

Where? Sadlers Wells When? Until 25 Feb How Much? From £12