The Sadler's Wells Theatre in London is hosting its annual Flamenco Festival, which is in full swing and continuing until mid-March. Every night there is a tantalizing taste of Flamenco sure to quench anyone's thirst. The numerous ruffled dresses worn and dozens of guitar strings plucked this last week have excited many, especially this Monday evening. Belén Maya and Manuel Liñán's Trasmín started off the second week of the Festival and the artists came together to create an evening of joy through desolation. The remarkably bare stage was a great way to frame the Andalusian dancers and their incredibly gifted musicians.

Belén Maya © Luis Castilla
Belén Maya
© Luis Castilla

Trasmín went back to the basics, where the two Granada born dancers allowed their technical precision to display their passion and love for dancing. They represent a celebration of generations speaking to one another, and Trasmín was that conversation happening on stage. Although the nine excerpts were beautifully performed, it was not always clear how the pieces related to one another. However, when you have these types of performers delivering quality dancing, it doesn’t matter if there is a storyline or not. Liñán, in his Rondeña, was rough yet smooth, prickly and sugary in other moments. Maya, especially in her Bulería al Golpe where she wore a vamp-red dress, was sweet and juicy with a fleshy quality which included spiny movement phrases and taut footwork. Liñán, in his Soleá, went from introvert to become an extroverted, explosive dancer. He transformed a walk across the stage into an example of merciful dancing matching the weeping guitar notes. The effect his simple walk had, and the electricity it ignited were memorable. Maya, no stranger to adding pedestrian movements to her solos, did two star-jumps (also known as jumping-jacks outside the UK), and followed these movements with windmill arms and pivots around her leg. Maya's use of her hands was direct and intentional, and at times used to accentuate a rhythm similar to that of a heart beat. But no Flamenco show would be complete without the use of facial expressions. Sometimes Flamenco dancers express their feelings through that face – the one where they look like they just bit into a sour lemon. However, Maya and Liñán were able to match the face to the movement and sentiment of the piece; as a consequence their expressions felt honest and accessible.

Trasmín © Antonio Varonkov
Trasmín
© Antonio Varonkov

Trasmín uniquely incorporated the musicians into the act, and they were a vital part of the evening. Having interviewed Maya about the show, I knew that the choreography was created before the music, yet the musicians and the music were well integrated. Perhaps this relationship reflects the fact that, in Flamenco, dance and music are co-dependent and that the music is like that old friend you haven't seen in a while; you can pick up right where you left off and not miss a beat. There was a moment when the female singer, Gema Caballero, stood centre stage, and Maya circled and touched her. Caballero never acknowledged her presence, which set up a surprising dynamic that was intentional and worked well. A similar moment in Liñán's solo, this time with the guitarist Victor “El Tomate” Márquez, who had his head down the entire time as Liñán danced in a diagonal strip of light. “El Tomate” never lifted his head, but his body was positioned to face Liñán as he danced to the grieving guitar. Another really beautiful moment was when the singer, José Anillo, sang a verse which included a sentence that said “I am a furniture of sadness wrapped in...”; what a way to frame the empty chair lit in the pool of light.

Trasmín was a refreshing show with a simplicity that allowed the exploration of form through genuine and original choreography. The bareness of the stage did not reflect a lack of something but rather amplified the spirit and energy. Very few people can fill a theatre like Sadler's Wells without staging tricks or using props; Liñán and Maya exemplified beauty as they moved in an elated fashion across the bare stage.

Read Rosamaria's interview with Belén Maya here

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