Patrick Centre, Birmingham, UK; May 7, 2015
In Cádiz, flamenco star Jesús Fernández reflects on his Andalusian roots. For seventy minutes he takes the audience on a very personal, nostalgic trip through his home town. He is a startling performer who brings a fluid elegance to the stage and who demands attention.
The evening is divided into four parts, each looking at one aspect of the city: the connection with the sea, inside the walls, the idiosyncrasy of the town, and a final ‘This is it. Cádiz.’ All that is easy enough to follow thanks to a swift costume change by Fernández (his gold jacket the colour of the cathedral’s cupola for the third section being most notable), but even so, I suspect Cádiz will truly only convey a sense of the city to those that have been there, or who have enough Spanish to understand Francesco Trinidad’s (‘El Trini’) deeply felt vocals. I have not, and did not. Not that it really matters because this is a feast of music and dance that can be enjoyed for being just that.
As sparkling as the various dances are, they do come across as a series of unconnected solos, but as the rhythms ebbed and flowed, Fernández was always right on the beat. His quick footwork is outstanding. His dance is at different times sultry, steamy, expansive, reined in and exuberant, but always with a sense of tradition; flamenco for the purist rather than flamenco for the tourist.
Fernández is also a true all-round performer. He immediately dominates proceedings. His constant glances at the audience quickly established a rapport. The little asides between all the performers suggest a group of friends having a good time; and so was the audience.
Apart from Trinidad, Fernández is backed up by the wonderful Jesús Núñez on guitar, whose notes filled the theatre with the atmosphere of a warm summer evening; Israel Mera ‘Katumba’ on percussion and Anabel Moreno, who may have been there largely to control the rhythm with her palmas (clapping), but who is one of those lucky performers who manages to constantly catch the eye even when standing still. She does finally get to dance; her short number as part of the curtain call-cum-encore was worth waiting for. Full of colour and allure it was a great end to the evening.
A special mention too for Susana Romero’s gold, shimmering lighting. When Cádiz was founded by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC it was named Gadir, the ‘City of Light’, and she certainly makes the stage live up to the epithet.
Launched in Birmingham in 2014, Flamenco Edition aims produce and promote flamenco art across the UK. On the evidence of Cadiz, they are on to a winner with the sold out Patrick Centre (a rare event indeed) proving that there is a market for flamenco outside London. And it’s a cracking seventy minutes of top class dance. It’s a delight. Go see.