Inevitable panic surely besets the most virtuosic performer when preparing to inhabit a world class stage as a soloist for circa 1.5 hours. But we quickly learn that Ángel Muñoz can be relied on to hold his nerve. 

From White to Black opens on a black stage suffused with dry ice as electronic music pulses out an insistent heartbeat rhythm. Then we glimpse a pair of distant hands moving expressively in black shadow. These are soon followed by a moving body as Muñoz emerges – also in black – and starts to dance in full view.

Ángel Muñoz © Daniel M Pantiga
Ángel Muñoz
© Daniel M Pantiga

During the course of the show Muñoz presents six flamenco dances, starting with the gravitas of the Martinete and seguiriya and, via an energetic taranto and masculine farruca, to the joyous concluding guajira and alegrias. Monochrome, chiaroscuro lighting and costume match the mood throughout – from dark to light – the last piece seeing Muñoz in head-to-toe white, before being consumed once more, back into darkening shadows... gone.

This is a clever and self-effacing visual device: it’s as though he emerges initially from the rock of centuries, the etched origins of generations of flamenco, to bring us his art – the purest kind – eventually merging imperceptibly back into the stone. The imagery is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s unfinished statues of figures toiling to escape, but trapped in the marble that holds them and from which they are being hewn... here a facial expression; there a delicate hand.

The journey we are taken on evokes Muñoz’s reflections on the differing meanings, contradictions and perceptions of his own name. Ángel – the messenger, the guardian, the one that flies, the one that falls. Affecting and transcendent, Muñoz awes us with his total mastery of his art: balletic, graceful, strong and always sensitive. Combining a contemporary flamenco approach with a purist flamenco soul, he displays a deep connection to the music and the roots of flamenco.

Born in Cordoba, Ángel Muñoz has attained popular and critical acclaim, in his native Spain and globally. He has danced with major companies including that of Paco Peña, for whom he still appears as guest artist, and he choreographs and appears in flamenco shows and opera on the most prestigious stages of the world. Angel, Flamenco, Dance/Flight was premièred at the 2011 Jerez Flamenco Festival and he also presented From Black to White at the Madrid 2013 Original Flamenco Festival. 

This is an intelligently and creatively conceived production that stays at the heart of flamenco, bringing the intimacy and emotive punch of small scale flamenco tablao to the large scale Sadler’s Wells auditorium.

Simplicity and beauty run through this show. From the wonderfully heartfelt singing of Miguel Ortega and José Ángel Carmona to the woodwind playing of Diego Villegas, the drums and cajon (box drum) of Nacho López. And – of course – the plaintive guitar of Javier Patino – the red amber of the instrument providing the only colour on stage for the entire duration of the performance.

The final dance – a playful alegrias – starts with the unusual strains of a harmonica, playing Muñoz in for a caper he clearly enjoys. I have it on good authority that the incongruous harmonica brought the house down in Jerez, the audience collapsing in raucous laughter. But at Sadler’s Wells we watch, rapt and respectful. Not until the very end does the entire auditorium erupt in noisy applause and a standing ovation.

Thank you Ángel Muñoz and company for a brilliant show. Refreshing and fabulous to be reminded of the true essence of flamenco.

*****