Spanish dance has always held a great fascination for me. It is an ancient cultural discipline of almost ritualistic proportions and the essence of traditional ‘flamenco’ dance, song and music lies within the self-controlled stylised portrayal of suppressed passion that is only infrequently unleashed during moments of accentuated frenzy.
Escencias Flamencas does this Spanish art form true justice. Artistic Director Carolyn Holden’s exploration of the synergy between the ‘essences’ of different Flamenco ‘palos’ (rhythms) and South Africa’s rich wine heritage is certainly inspired.
The evening progresses like a well-planned theatrical wine tasting, beginning with Cap Classique, gradually moving through the white wine varieties and into the pinks of RosÃ©, then on to the red range of Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The essence contained within each wine is suitably reflected in the effective choices of traditional flamenco music and song, as well as Dicky Longhurst’s richly coloured costume designs; his selection of shimmering dress fabrics brilliantly captures the sensual flow of liquid that each wine evokes.
The effervescence of sparkling wine provides a celebratory start to the programme – the musical accompaniment is ‘Algeria’ (meaning ‘joy’) and is vivaciously danced by Beth Shapiro, Lisa Ventura, Lizelle Julie and Changa Vega. Next comes ‘SoleÃ¡ por Buleria’, which crisply underscores the powerful footwork of Maria Cortes, Zeth Mtati and Carmen Perez.
Lisa Ventura and Beth Shapiro provocatively encapsulate the smokiness of chardonnay to the rhythms of ‘Petenera’, and then Changa Vega, Pedro Aguilera and Robert Davids flirtatiously symbolize the blends of rosÃ© to the strains of ‘GuajÃra’, itself a combination blend of Cuban and flamenco rhythms.
Robert Davids deserves a special mention for not only his dancing ability; his mastery on the ‘cajon’ (a fascinating drum of simple box-like structure) is superb in its provision of elaborate percussion rhythms throughout the programme. His talents are admirably combined with those of Robert Jeffery (cello and guitar), Bienyameen (flamenco guitar), Maxim Starcke (bass and saxophone) and trainee-singer LoreÃ n Swartz.
If anything, I was slightly disappointed by a lack of eminently virile masculinity within the dancing of the Pinotage (‘SiguirÃya’) segment. Although both male dancers possess undeniable technique, neither of them managed to fully capture the smoldering power and passion essential to a Spanish depiction of the eternal struggle between men.
Lizelle Julie poignantly portrayed isolation and loneliness in her Shiraz (‘SoleÃ¡’) solo and the female ensemble gave a glorious variety of expression to the ‘Tarantos’, ‘Tientos’ and ‘Tangos’ climax of the evening.
However, the star of the show was Rocio Parrilla, guest artiste from Jerez – the emotional impact of her vocal interpretations rewarded the audience with many a memorable spine-chilling moment. Her on-stage appearance at the end of the show likewise provided an added element of electrifying authenticity to this excellent production.
Another highly recommended show at On Broadway.
Escencias Flamencas is on at Cape Town’s On Broadway dinner-theatre until Saturday 10 May. There is a special offer for the last few performances: R99 per person for a ticket for the show which includes a burger (vegetarian option available if pre-ordered). Show-only tickets are available at R95 per person. To book call 021 424 1194 or visit www.onbroadway.co.za.