Adelaide Festival Dance Review: FLA.CO.MEN

What: FLA.CO.MEN

Who: Directed, choreographed and performed by Israel Galvàn

When: 9-11 March 2018

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre

How much: $45-$89 (see website)

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Image credit: Adelaide Festival

Israel Galvàn roars, leaps and creeps his way across the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre, before climbing right off it and walking through the stalls – more than once. He dances on a jingling pile of silver coins, smashes a vase in the shape of a flamenco boot, and bulldog-clips discarded sheets of paper to his clothes and hair. At different points in the show, Galvàn is accompanied by haunting flamenco songs, atonal jazz, bare percussion, muted violin strings, imitations of bird calls, or by throbbing, deafening bass. About an hour into the show, a singer cries out, “Silencio!” and the entire cast freezes in silent silhouette for a full minute. Needless to say, FLA.CO.MEN is not your average flamenco performance.

This unique brand of avant-garde flamenco is a divisive experience. The Adelaide premiere of FLA.CO.MEN was marked by several walkouts but also by enthusiastic clapping and shouts of “Olé!” from certain sections of the audience. In the end, Galvàn and his band were rewarded with a lengthy standing ovation from the audience members who remained (which, to be fair, was the vast majority).

Galvàn is clearly an immensely talented and disciplined dancer. He moves with marvellous skill and precision, at times giving almost his entire body over to percussion. However, it is equally clear that Galvàn is less interested in showing off his talent than in smashing (perhaps literally, in the case of the ceramic boot) the conventions of traditional flamenco. This may well be a worthy artistic goal, but it can also be confusing and tiresome to watch.

I will admit that I did not particularly like FLA.CO.MEN. In particular, I felt that what could have been an enjoyably challenging one-hour show was bloated at ninety minutes. However, art that pushes boundaries and questions tradition rarely pleases everyone. I also feel bound to report that, while this wasn’t my cup of tea, many others obviously loved it. Approach with caution, patience, and an open mind.

3 out of 5 stars

Matilda Handsley-Davis

A video excerpt of FLA.CO.MEN may be viewed on YouTube here.

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