Now in its thirteenth year together, Flameno Fire presents their latest work Gypsy Pathways. This work explores the exotic roots of the Flamenco artform from the migration of the Romani Gypsies and the influences that various regions in North India, North Africa, and Middle Eastern Europe had on the Kathak tradition of dance and song to develop what is know today as Flamenco.
The Northern Indian roots featured collaboration with Indian Kathak dancer/singer Sulagna Basil and her son Arka “Tito” Basu on the tabla.
With original musical composition and choreography, Brisbane musician and director of Gypsy Pathways Andrew Veivers wanted to musically trace the eight-hundred year journey of the gypsy culture from Northern India through Europe and display the similarities in footwork and the role of music in their respective cultures. It is interesting to note from the 1400’s and through a lot of the 20th century, flamenco was not openly practiced in Spain as the catholic church made it illegal.
The talented musicians included guitarist Kieran Ray, violinist Shenton Gregory, percussionist Andrej Vujicic, and singer James Paul.
The dancing in this production was firery, athletic, and passionate. The Spanish dancers included Sebastian Sanchez and Frances “La Chica” Grima, Natalie Slect, and dancer/choreographer Simone Pope.
Brisbane-based spanish dance teacher, choreographer and performer, Simone Pope was passionate, strong and sultry in her dance style and just mesmerizing to watch.
Highlights of the program was the long vieled dress dance by La Chica (I’m sure there is a more technical name for it), by La Chica. How she managed to dance so effortlessly with a shawl, whilst holding a heavy long tailed dress was a sight to see, not to mention the stamina required for all the intricate footwork.
Many of the dance numbers were solo performances with a few duets or group numbers to spice things up a bit. For my i-generation attention span, I would have like to see more group numbers and shorter dancers. Having said that, part of the wow factor was the incredible athletic stamina needed by the dancers to prouduce such intense sustained footwork. My calve muscles ached just watching them.
Another special moment was when I realised Shenton Gregory was not playing a mandolin-like instrument but infact plucking a violin like a guitar! Incredible.
Another pleasant surprise that can only be evoked by Flamenco music and dance (and bull fighting), were the shouts “Ole” and “Bravo” that erupted from the audience after an especially difficult passage of dance. It was hard not to get caught up in the passionate atmosphere and yello out a few “Ole’s” myself – very liberating.
I liked the quaint humble staging were the dancers and musicians seemed to be at times just having a spontaneous jam session amongst themselves, and not caring too much where the audience was. The double-edged sword of that however was it didn’t command the audiences full attention as much.
The lighting gave vibrancy to a simple stage layout where a scrim and a few drapes were used to nice effect. I think a little more rustic charm could have been injected by part of the stage been set in a quaint spanish villa with more of a constructed set however minimal.
The other thing that may have helped the audience’s understanding of the gypsy migration narrative was to have a narrator or voice-over in parts of the show, or even a multi-media sub-titled explanation of each section. This would have added a deeper and more theatrical presentation.
Overall, Gypsy Pathways produced a unique evening of world music and dance, displaying the crème of Spanish artists.