Posted on October 29, 2008
Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez are natural partners. Having jointly won the title of Most Outstanding Dancer at the National Spanish and Flamenco Dance Competition in 1994, the Madrid-born pair founded Nuevo Ballet Español the following year, and the have since toured a host of productions featuring their unique approach to Spanish and flamenco dance.
Returning to London’s Peacock Theatre in October, along with their latest addition – Sangre Flamenca – they brought nine striking, young company dancers. But don’t be fooled: Sangre Flamenca is all about Rojas and Rodriguez, and fortunately their egotism is not misplaced.
Male baile (dance) has often taken a back seat in flamenco’s history, with female luminaries tending to dominate the landscape during its early emergence as well as more recently. Two male flamenco dancers jointly fronting a company, Rojas and Rodriguez are a fairly new breed, and their presence permeates all aspects of Sangre Flamenca. Eight dances celebrate the variety of flamenco’s many facets: bulerias, tangos, zapateado, jaleos and martinets are neatly packaged and presented in clean, slick sections. Elements of contemporary dance occasionally lean towards the more clichéd end of lyrical jazz, but mostly succeed in adding a new dimension to the traditional vocabulary. Similarly, the costumes generally hit the right balance of old and new. In Zalamerias, five picture-perfect females move in unison wearing long white dresses that begin in stiffened, sleeved jackets and end in layers of pastel-blue fabric that floats to their feet. Later they reappear as bold, sensuous incarnations poured into red satin dresses, all snaking hips and fiery footwork.
Sangre Flamenca (the blood of flamenco) eschews story telling: there’s no plot, no chronology. It’s just a simple showcase of talent, that of the young, glamorous company and – of course – their equally attractive front men.
Rojas and Rodriguez have the catchy names, the pop star hairdos and the good looks of a PR’s dream. Rodriguez is the compact virtuoso, Rojas the burlier, brawnier brother. Together, they complement each other so well that when Rodriguez begins the first solo of the night it’s almost a surprise to see him command the stage alone. Later, Rojas gets his turn in the spotlight, and boy does he milk it. Chest puffed out, sweat dripping from his face, he edges closer and closer to the edge of the stage. You can’t help but be charmed by his overt showing-off as he stops and starts, building momentum with each new phrase and climaxing in a display of such energy even the over-amplified vocals paled into insignificance.
In all, apart from an over-emphasis on unison and a few costume clichés, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about Sangre Flamenca as a vehicle to showcase the phenomenal talent of Rojas and Rodriguez. We’ll undoubtedly be seeing them again.