Lo Real / Le Réel / The Real
Exploration of Nazi persecution of gypsies too abstract to deliver emotional punch
This article is from 2015.
Israel Galván’s examination of the Nazi murder of gypsies, and of the strength of the gypsy spirit for bouldering on through multiple persecutions, is not the emotional punch that its subject might suggest.
The piece is divided into vignettes that present visions of the gitana culture that gave birth to flamenco, and explores the Nazi fetishisation of the dance, even as they sent its owners to concentration camps and gas chambers. Galván’s first two solos introduce us to his particular contemporary flamenco style, cut with a sharp street dance feel, slicing limbs and unpredictable angles. It’s a grammar that is hard to follow, a colder version of traditional flamenco and it feels as if he is deliberately trying to tear it free from the passion with which outsiders have defined it.
This deconstructed feel continues, through understated solos, songs about rats and cockroaches that encapsulate the grotesque language with which gypsies are persecuted, and a mash-up of Weimar cabaret-style clothing and steely flamenco that morphs into a joyful riot as the musicians and the dancer gather close. But there is too little trajectory to follow, too much fragmentation and too much abstraction of the horror and pride the piece aims to convey.
There are a couple of moments however when Galván is willing to drop the abstract form and allow us into his – and the dancers’ – hearts. Towards the start, slumped to the ground, he drags himself forward into the light at the edge of the stage, his feet still thumping the rhythm of the dance in perfect defiance. He gets up and powers on, but instead of the traditional posturing hand-flicked-from-mouth gesture that often comes at the end of bulerias, his fingers flutter lightly away from his lips. It’s a whisper of power and an image that is repeated at the end by Belén Maya, but it’s a whisper that comes too fleetingly, and touches too lightly.
Festival Theatre, 529 6000, until 21 Aug, 7.30pm, £12–£30 (£6–£15).