Israel Galván is nowadays a renowned and acclaimed flamenco artist. After years of consolidating good fame as a fine dancer, he started to create his own choreographies in 1998. From his first work, Mira!, he revealed a distinctive style installed in the most innovative and daring side of the flamenco panorama. He has just visited Sadler’s Wells, presenting his latest production, La Curva, at London Flamenco Festival.

Israel Galván, La Curva © London Flamenco Festival
Israel Galván, La Curva
© London Flamenco Festival

In the programme notes, Galván explains that the inspiration for this piece came from the testimonials of an avant-garde performance by dancer Vicente Escudero at the theatre La Courbe in Paris in 1924. It seems that the show was an allusive collage with references to the most innovative artists of the time, chiefly those under the banner of cubism. Among the celebrated passages, there were a number dedicated to football, a tap dance imitating the sound of a pyramid of chairs falling to the ground, and a jazz dance indulging in the hip movements that would bring success to Josephine Baker. In homage to Escudero’s daring experiment, Galván’s La Curva is a similarly allusive and experimental piece of flamenco.

The set and the music of the show immediately indicate that this is not an ordinary flamenco work. In a first reference to Escudero’s antecedent, three pyramids of chairs are placed on the stage. In due time, they will collapse, startling the audience. The rest of the stage has only two more objects: a table, on the right, and a grand piano, on the left. The commanding presence of the latter matches the relevance of the music in the production. The conscious avoidance of the traditional guitars in favour of the piano marks a departure from flamenco tradition. In addition, the music which pianist and composer Sylvie Courvoisier extracts from her piano is dissonantly contemporary, standing uneasily cold in contrast to the warm and emotive voice of the other musician on stage, Inés Bacán. Her tunes are the only unequivocally flamenco imprints of the production.

The space in the centre of the stage, between the grand piano and the table, is the dancing floor where Galván displays his abilities. His refined technique, with fast and clear footwork and plastic elasticity in hands and arms, is exploited to great advantage in a choreography definitely infused with an audacious drive. A bold exploration of new movement vocabulary for flamenco dancing defines the aesthetics of La Curva. Deconstruction is the methodology. In accordance with the dissonant notes of the music, the steps seek asymmetry and gracelessness, and no emotion is ever hinted at. The only ingredient is pure body movement. The phrases in which it is embedded are very long, with few resting points and no fluid transitions. Rather, the steps are merely juxtaposed. Clearly, there are explicit allusions to Escudero’s referent, with motives from tap routines and Baker’s hip movements. Other disciplines, such as ballet, are also alluded to. The overall impression is that of a complex, experimental patchwork.

Despite all these good qualities, the production is, however, disappointing. All the fortunate vocabulary findings, intentionally angular, dissonant and beautifully ugly, are already present in Galván’s first solo of the evening. The rest of the show is an extended version of it that, in its insistent monotony, leads to boredom. The fact the Galván varies his placement on stage, successively dancing on different surfaces (such as the table or over a layer of white sand, for instance) does not work as a device to make the action successfully progress towards the end. The musical interludes do not help in this sense, either. They only slow down the pace of the show, failing to attract attention. In all, La Curva is regretfully an interesting five-minute solo tediously enlarged to last ninety.

**111