Friday, January 20, 2012

Israel Galvan

I have been taking flamenco lessons for nearly five years. I absolutely love losing myself in the music every Tuesday night in class, learning complex rhythmic patterns, trying to free myself and get some flamenco attitude and fire within my performance style, and searching (in vain so far) for the duende.

One of my favourite flamenco dancers is Israel Galvan. Galvan 'is a dancer ahead of his time, as no one has ever danced this way' says El Pais: 'nothing he does is orthodox, but you can't question his flamencura (flamenco attitude)', and it's a fair description.

His poses, the angle of his arms, his footwork are different from your traditional flamenco, but at the same time they are not imports from other forms of dance: they are still flamenco.

For me, they are related to flamenco in that his dancing is deeply connected to flamenco music - it is flamenco music itself actually. Check out this video of Galvan dancing to silence in Carlos Saura's film Flamenco Flamenco.

In flamenco, the body has always been music: as a dancer, you make sounds with your feet, you clap your hands, you click your fingers, and when in a circle, your voice will encourage others to dance. Israel Galvan seems to always be looking for new sounds to make, to create more nuances. He performs footwork in sand, he uses his teeth, he finds new rhythms. I find it incredible!

He sometimes also uses props, which add diversity but also challenges for the performance: in one show he carries a heavy load, in another he performs on an articulated platform, and in yet another he is in a standing coffin. Some could say they are tricks, but 'they work because they’re part of the witty, odd flamboyance that characterizes his dance theater, and even more because they’re part of the rhythmic outpouring that turns his dance into music' (Alastair Macaulay, New York Times).

Of course his zapateado (footwork) is completely mind-blowing too. It's fast, varied, clean - you can't fault it. Thanks to the treasure trove that is youtube, I found this video from 1998: you can see him performing lots of different steps. Notice how he often counts, so he still follows the palmas (the rhythm and thus the basis of the dance). I also love how free he keeps his arms, throwing them here, there - I never know what to do with mine and find it so inspiring to watch what he does with his.

'If I try something new or innovating, it's always coming from the roots. A flamenco artist today no longer has the opportunity to train/learn in the fiestas, tablaos, private meetings. I went to high school, I go on the internet, I love movies: we don't have the same references at all.' Israel Galvan

So the dancing of Israel Galvan actually grabs, and even demands, your attention: it is a 'dance that makes your gaze focus, concentrate on the simplest gesture, without fuss, on the precise movement' (El Pais). It is so detailed I want to see it again and again to catch exactly what he has done.

I have only seen one of his shows live, La Edad de Oro, which had a simple set-up (guitarist, singer and dancer) but I really look forward to seeing his more staged and ambitious works live soon.

Check out Israel Galvan's website for a biography, articles, list of shows and more.

1 comment:

IrishEmma said...