Manuel Linan first made an impact on the festival in 2014 with ‘Nomada‘. This year he returned with ‘Reversible‘.
The Teatro Villamarta was sold out. We had seats up in the balcony at the side of the auditorium ( which had a slightly restricted view, although the on-line booking system hadn’t made this clear, so something to watch out for in future ). The show was directed and choreographed (in collaboration) by Linan, who was also the lead performer. Last year I saw him dancing at Sala Paul in a set which was head-lined by David Carpio ( see Festival de Jerez II ). This year David Carpio was one of the singers who performed the music on the Teatro stage, doubtless returning the favour.
I have seen a number of flamenco shows at this theatre. They tend towards one or another of two main types. There is the ‘spectacular’ format, with a supporting ‘corps de ballet’ of beautiful and skilled, relatively young, men and women in fine clothing performing graceful, synchronised steps to recorded music in support of a ‘star’ dancer ( like Maria Pages’ company in 2013 ). Or there is a looser, flamenco-family type format, of skilled dancers, singers and musicians of all ages on stage, which is more of a traditional celebration of flamenco, though it still has its ‘star’ ( like Antonio Del Pipa’s in 2014 ). In both the performers are of the highest standard and the shows very enjoyable.
‘Reversible‘ fitted neither of these types. It had only a small number of performers, with two guitarists (Franciso Vinuesa and Pino Losada) and percussion (Miguel’El Cheyenne’) on stage and three singers (Miguel Ortega, David Carpio and El Torombo), one of whom also danced (El Torombo). There were two other dancers besides Linan (Lucia Alvarez ‘La Pinona’ and Jose Maldonado). The staging was minimal but effective, two rails of clothing, chairs for the guitarists and singers and the ingenious use of a thick rope and some red paper flowers.
Linan states that his shows challenge current preconceptions and prejudices about gender and this was no exception. Again he appeared wearing a skirt which he used to good effect, but he also wore trousers. In one piece he and Lucia Alvarez actually swapped costumes, the ‘reversible’ of the title. The point was well-made, though the equality it assumed was somewhat undermined by the imbalance in overall focus – Linan is definitely the ‘star’ here. That said, there were interesting and often beautifully realised juxtapositions, through-out the show, between the male principle, represented by the tall, tattooed, muscle-armed figure of Maldonado, the female principle, the small, elegant Alvarez and Linan, apparently flexible and somewhere in between , dancing first with one then the other, dressed as both ‘male’ and ‘female’.
The dancing was always exact and precise, the footwork sometimes astonishing in its rapidity. It also had a spontaneous quality, at least when Linan was dancing. The final buleria went on too long for me, but there were well composed stage pictures and great virtuosity on show. The musicians and singers were good too. The audience lapped it up and there was a standing ovation at the close, with the familiar Jerez rhythmic stamping and clapping echoing through the theatre. It was noticeable that much of the audience was young. Linan is now so well-known that he has a fan base. He revelled in their applause (a ‘star’ indeed). It will be very interesting to see what he does next.