Flamenco Flamen’ka

Published September 23, 2008

Dance fans revelling in the return of celebrity dance contest Strictly Come Dancing have a chance to see the choreography of the programme’s Mr Nasty, judge Craig Revel Horwood, up close in his new show Flamenco Flamen’ka at the Lyric.

With Zorro The Musical five minutes walk away at the Garrick, it seems there is a distinctly Latino air in the West End at the moment as Flamenco Flamen’ka opens at the Lyric for a short run.

Originally devised by dancer Karen Ruimy – who appears in the show as a brothel madam and sometime-narrator – as a series of dances, director Revel Horwood has since developed Flamenco Flamen’ka into a full length show for a London audience. It is based, he says in a programme note, on the short stories of Argentine writer Jose Luis Borges, which are told through a combination of flamenco, Argentine Tango and contemporary dance.  

Set in a brothel, the show loosely tells the tale of two brothers who fall for the same girl and, unable to share her, decide to kill her instead. No, this isn’t a plot spoiler – the murder happens at the start of the show before the full story of Juliana’s demise is told in flashbacks.

However, the story seems beside the point. This lusty tale is simply a good excuse to show off the talents of these dancers, whose furious footwork is set to the impassioned Spanish guitar rhythms of an onstage band. The dances move from a sensual tango – in which a tall stranger in black waistcoat and trilby, a sort of camp Zorro, woos the ladies with his moves – to an impressive flamenco by a quartet of male dancers, whose feet stamp with muscle-cramping rapidity. The power of flamenco is particularly evident when used in scenes of confrontation. Like bulls pawing the ground and ready to charge, at times the dancers pace around each other in flamenco stances, channelling all their aggression into their feet. Among them, the footwork of Manuel Gutierrez Cabello as one of the brothers, Eduardo, and Inma Arnanda Espejo as a brothel girl, is particularly eye catching.  

Diego Pitarch’s atmospheric set is framed by the alcoves of a Spanish piazza, while the dusky lighting and opulent costumes capture the seediness of the brothel, where the dancers writhe around with a grubby sensuality, swapping partners at every turn. You won’t catch that on Strictly Come Dancing.

CB