The Programme for the twentieth edition of the Festival de Jerez is out and the flights are booked. There is already a lot of discussion, both virtual and vocal, of who is performing this year and what their sets will be.
The opening night sees two big, contemporary names. At the Teatro Villamarta there is the premiere of dancer Eva Yerbabuena’s new show ‘Aparencias‘ (Appearances) with the company she formed almost twenty years ago. At the Sala Compania, is David Lagos, Jereziano cantaor (singer). His set should be interesting, it includes electric violin as well as guitars and percussion, the traditional instruments of flamenco.
This Programme is full of famous names. On Saturday, the Teatro has another famous son of Jerez, Antonio El Pipa ( the closest you can get to flamenco royalty, his Aunt was a famous dancer and his whole family perform ). I saw the show he did here in 2014. Like all superb dancers his limbs seem to extend and retract at will and his choreography captured the familial spirit of flamenco, including all the ages. ‘Gallardia‘ is his new show. Incidentally, his invited guest is singer Esperanza Fernandez, whose performance at Sala Paul I enjoyed last year ( see Festival de Jerez II ) and who is also appearing at Sadlers Wells Festival of Flamenco in late February. As is dancer Ana Morales, who was part of Fernandez’ set in 2015 ( see photograph left ) and who appears here this year at the Teatro on Sunday 21st. Sara Baras is also here ( and in London ) with her show ‘Voces‘.
There is increasing cross-over between the two Festivals. It would be good if Sadlers Wells acknowledged that. By the way, Leeds now also has a Flamenco Festival and once a month Ronnie Scott’s Frith Street joint is given over to it. Could The Story Bazaar be ahead of the zeitgeist?
In 2016, for the first time, the Festival presents a Japanese singer (flamenco is much admired in Japan). Shoji Kojima has surrounded himself with, or been surrounded by, well-known Jerez names, including Eva Yerbabuena, David Lagos, Tamara and Francisco Lopez. Interesting. There has been a successful Japanese flamenco dance company here before, but not, to my knowledge, a featured singer. How far is this a reflection of flamenco’s growing popularity in the east and how far is it just good commercial sense by the organisers (probably both)? Not only will his performance be interesting to see, but also the reaction to it. Jerez audiences like to make up their own mind. I have seen the attempted promotion of various artists, only for audiences refuse to take them to their heart – polite applause, yes, rapturous reception, no.
Jerezianos like to say that it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you are good enough and as long as you commit yourself to the art. There have always been performers from outside Spain, though usually from South America. But it’s also noticeable that many performers from elsewhere in Spain, like to claim some sort of Jerez connection (an uncle, a cousin) when they perform at the Festival. Audiences here have always been Jereziano in the majority, although the number of both Spanish and international visitors has much increased in recent years. It is becoming truly international, which makes for a great atmosphere in town during the Festival. I’ll be keeping an eye on my phone for a signal that a Flamenco Flashmob is about to take place, like the one led by Mercedes Ruiz in Arenal in 2013 (see photograph right).
I won’t go through the whole programme, but the shows I am especially looking forward to are that by Manuel Linan, the young dancer who I saw with David Carpio last year ( see Festival de Jerez II ). He is now at the theatre, with a company. I am intrigued to see how his remarkable artistry translates to the big stage and auditorium. And Santiago Lara, a Jerezian guitarist and an old favourite ( his music is often heard in our home and I’ll be looking out for his latest CD ). His expressive and fluid style of playing is unmistakable ( see clip below ).