Review: Mercedes Ruiz - Déjame que te baile - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 21 February
Reviewed by Siobhan Murphy - Wednesday 22 February 2017

Performance reviewed: February 21

Time flies when you’re watching Mercedes Ruiz dance. Her latest 90-minute show, whose name translates as “let me dance for you”, seems to pass in a whirling flash of footstamps, high spirits and warm camaraderie. You feel as though you’ve been invited to a party.

The Jerez-born dancer has a natural grace, her liquid moves need the minimum of musical accompaniment, and she must have some of the sharpest finger-clicking skills in the business. She lets her musicians and her two singers, particularly the veteran Jerez cantaor David Lagos, draw her dancing out of her: she can be joyful and playful in a festive milonga-garrotín, then transform her energy completely to perform a struttingly masculine martinete in burgundy trouser suit and bolero jacket.

There are no complicated concepts here – just a love of and joy in dancing. For the alegrías, she dons a bata de cola – again her elegant poise means she makes it look easy to swing and flick that long ruffled train around her legs. Her castanet playing is fast and seductive, at times sounding like a rattlesnake.
Ruiz’s soleá may not have the passionate intensity that performers such as Eva Yerbabuena can infuse it with, but you become aware of how beautifully placed her hands and arms are – she turns well-known flamenco gestures, such as an undulating hand running back over her head, as though indicating flowing locks, into something newly marvellous. And in the closing fiesta flamenco section, when you imagine she must surely be exhausted, she takes up a shawl and sends the fringing flying like bursts of fireworks.

Her singers, Lagos and David Carpio, guitarist Santiago Lara and palmeros Javier Peña and Rafael Ramos at this point show off their versatility by easily and cheerfully swapping roles as they all take turns to do a bit of dancing. And then it’s over. “Déjame que te baile?” Ruiz asks us for the last time with a smile – and you’d be happy to let her dance for you all night. An unexpected joy of a show.

Siobhan Murphy is a freelance writer and editor, who also contributes to Dancetabs and Time Out. Find her on Twitter @blacktigerlily

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