Review: Belén Maya Company with Manuel Liñán — Trasmín - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 10 March 2014
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Wednesday 12 March 2014

Belén Maya and company. Photo: John Ross

Belén Maya and her collaborator Manuel Liñán are two very different flamenco dancers but their styles complement each other. In the one duet (Cantina ) they perform at the beginning of Trasmín, they establish a symbiotic partnership, even though they don’t dance together again. His style is compact, punchy, even aggressive; hers is elegant, fluid and explorative. Collectively, with their family of musicians, they present a show in which traditional and contemporary flamenco elements fit seamlessly together.

Liñán appears for his first solo, walking on stage with stealth and feline-like purpose to join the musicians. The singers David Carpio and Jose Anillo slowly build up the tension, their raucous, discordant voices emitted through the most extraordinary twists of their mouths. Like animals dying a painful death, they begin to be seized by the music, thumping their chests, emoting wildly. Equally impressive are the guitarists Victor Marquez and Rafael Rodriguez who contribute with their mastery, and temper the harshness of the grainy voices with a more melodic strumming.

Liñán speeds up with the percussive clapping, performing impossibly fast pirouettes and turns with alacrity and meticulous precision. His stamping takes on a River Dance quality, but with a greater passionate edge. He knows how to play the audience through creating dynamic tension which he can raise to a climax but equally tone down. He’s a technical wizard but not arrogant or showy and there are moments when he demonstrates an investigative, gentler side.

Maya’s first solo is calm and understated compared to that of Linan’s. Here her strengths are subtlety and gracefulness and her quiet but steely presence commands attention. She interacts with female singer Gema Caballero in a mother-and-daughter relationship, her hands expressively intricate. Theatrical gestures such as holding her head in her hands give way to energetic swinging arms which propel her forwards. Later she dances a more dramatically forceful solo in a red dress as if inspired by the colour. Here are arms writhe like snakes above her head, and her body moves as if possessed not only by the music but by pure physical pleasure – the flamenco ‘ duende’.

Solos danced either on chairs or around them seem to be popular and while Liñán chair duet with one of the guitarists is less interesting, it nevertheless illuminates the powerful relationship between dancer and musician. Maya, however, sits on her chair and with her legs moving from an open position to parallel stamps out her choreography with the speed and rigor of Fred Astaire. Here she shows her innovative side, choreography that has a less traditional, quirkier tone.

Flamenco Festival London continues at Sadler’s Wells until Saturday 15 March
www.sadlerswells.com

Photos: John Ross



Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.

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