BANDALUZIA FLAMENCO

Clarendon Guesthouse, January 27.

Just as each flashing turn of a flamenco dancer reveals another facial expression or a fresh splash of coloured skirt, so nearly every appearance by Bandaluzia Flamenco seems to reveal new performers. This time the core troupe was joined by dancer Francesca “La Chica” Grima and percussionist Andre Vujicic from Seville.

In an especially dance-oriented show Grima literally stamped her authority on the stage with bolts of visceral energy. After initially performing in trousers for a wonderfully raw duet with Vujicic (cajon), she later returned in a lavish flamenco skirt and red top, brandishing a vast white shawl. This she used to paint the air with swirls, sometimes dramatic, and sometimes as delicate and elusive as butterfly wings. Yet there was a wildness in play that was about excavating flamenco’s primal roots more than just getting it “right”.

The contrast with Bandaluzia’s regular dancer, Jessica Statham, was fascinating. Statham’s work was more elegant and less visceral, and it was also simply the sexiest performance I have seen from her. All flamenco carries a sexual charge, although it is often shrouded in the form’s rituals, and can be less overt than is a haughty sensuousness. Later Statham held her own when she and Grima danced together in the closing alegrías.

Damian Wright and Jessica Statham
          Damian Wright and Jessica Statham

With the old firm of Damian Wright (guitar), Steve Hunter (electric bass) and James Hauptmann (percussion) joined by Vujicic’s cajon the music sometimes became flamenco on steroids. Hauptmann moved between cajon and a simple drum kit of snare and bass drum, with occasional sounds from a muffled gong or cowbell. Throw in Hunter’s rippling electric bass (which sounded as sonorous as a tuba from outside during the sound-check) and there was a steaming, unstoppable tide for Wright to catch and ride. He tendered some lovely shifting harmonic colours as he did so, although there could have been more fire from time to time.

Grima and Vujicic proffered an impromptu sing-and-dance by way of a brief encore, and it was like a wicked extra glass of sangria.