Jesús Fernández is one to watch. He is taking the Flamenco world forward, combining traditional sentiment and music with modern day twists and choreographic techniques.

Jesús Fernández © Flamenco Edition
Jesús Fernández
© Flamenco Edition
His approach to Flamenco lends itself perfectly to theatres like the Elmhurst School of Dance, located in Birmingham. Saturday's world première of Cádiz was the first production from the Flamenco Edition initiative and ran on June 21st and 22nd. Ana Garcia, the brains behind this production, is Spanish born and a Flamenco dancer herself who has spent more than 20 years in the field as a dancer and choreographer. She identified a gap in the market and believes that quality Flamenco can exist outside of London, which led to the creation of Flamenco Edition. 

Cádiz began with red lighting, beautiful guitar playing by Jesús Núñez and a hidden Fernández seated behind dangling seashells. He provoked us with his tantalizing footwork, then, suddenly, lights out and a musical interlude. Out walked 3 musicians, David Vázquez (vocals), Israel Mera (Percussion) and Anabel Moreno (Palmas) and background sounds of wind blowing and water flowing infiltrated the room. Fernández's presence dominated the stage as he started to dance. Instantly he started a love affair with the audience, at times playful and sultry, other times sarcastic. He continued to stomp with a boldness that really echoed past the first few rows. The musicians accompanied him and the rhythms were energizing. Although the singer appeared to be nervous at first, the guitarist made up for it with his swift playing. There was a nonverbal conversation happening, through smiles, eye winks, laughter and small body twitches. There was a clear connection between the five artists – they were all in love with what they were doing.

Jesús Fernández © Flamenco Edition
Jesús Fernández
© Flamenco Edition

Cádiz was trying to capture the essence of the Andalusian city, from its beautiful landscapes and beaches to its mysticism, religious rituals and people. In one humorous piece Fernández transformed into an old man by wearing a pillow around his belly and a flat cap. The sluggish ageing movement of the elbows and knees was paired with slow hip shakes. The fast footwork, adding to the comedic timing, ended with the old man waddling offstage. Another solo which caught my attention used a marching drum and moved from left to right in a straight line. Fernández started the solo wearing the drum, but half way through set it down, danced and then picked it up and walked offstage. This surprising piece definitely ventured into new territory but came up short of reaching its full potential. Whether because of the timing of the transitions or of the musical cues, there were sometimes moments of disjointedness and this solo with the drum was one of them. If there is one choreographic criticism about Cádiz, it is that sometimes the various solos felt disconnected and were not seamless. There were many pearls of beauty and some of them could have been developed further. 

Jesús Fernández © Flamenco Edition
Jesús Fernández
© Flamenco Edition

A real sparkler in the show was Fernández's Seguiriyas – a perfect balance of technique and passion. Fernández was genuine in his performance avoiding wearing the ever so common “Flamenco Growl” look,  and expressed his message through the dancing. He communicated his feelings in an honest way. He clearly enjoyed what he was doing and his big eyes when they gazed at the audience screamed with excitement and happiness. During one of his most creatively staged and choreographed pieces, the Tangos, Fernández's clever dancing with a cane, was anything but dull. His pirouettes and leg lunges could go on for days. The cane was his friend, not a prop, and the combination of the knee slaps and series of footwork breaks made him look gigantic. It appeared that the faster he danced the taller he looked.

The playfulness between the five artists onstage made Cádiz an escapade. I traveled to the Andalusian city; Fernández drove the car and we were all his passengers on this journey.