Flamenco is an art form that comes straight from the gut. Dancers get down and dirty: Their movements are earthy and rooted, as if their legs weighed a ton, as if the forces of gravity were working overtime. Singers, meanwhile, swelter and strain as they belt out their words, emotion oozing from their every pore.
The star dancer Sara Baras doesn’t really fit that description. Slender, long-limbed, and impossibly chic, she never gets down and dirty. Yet she's a superstar nonetheless. Her show at Sadler’s Wells — which filled the theater for several consecutive nights — had audiences in rapture.
Baras certainly has what it takes: fast feet that sound like a helicopter as she rattles across the stage, and slicing, sharp-elbowed turns. She puts those skills to very good use in her shows. And Baras must be one of the best-dressed dancers on the flamenco scene, her wardrobe often looking like something from a couture catwalk.
“Sombras” delivered on all of the above, and Baras also had fine ensemble dancers who she performed with beautifully. Her musicians were excellent. For a flamenco dancer, though, particularly one in her late forties, she’s still pretty bottled up. The only time I got teary was when the younger of her two singers launched into an expressive farruca, with Baras following along.
A few nights later, superstar singer Miguel Poveda (below, fourth from left) elicited emotion from the moment he appeared — laughter and joy as well as pathos. He took the theater by storm, playful and funny as he tried to speak English.
He started out on a serious note: with poems and a letter by Federico Garcia Lorca set to music. That was the part I least enjoyed, the hors d’œuvre to the main course that was his delivery of traditional flamenco — which was utterly superb. The guy may be 46, but he sounds like someone decades older, who has lived to see a lot.
What I most admire about Poveda is his generosity. Few superstars are as loving and giving towards their audience and towards their fellow artists as he is. At Sadler's Wells, he invited the celebrated singer El Londro to join him on stage. Who does that? Invite the competition? The show also featured percussive interludes from the dancer El Chorro, a tornado of feet and rhythm, who, in the encore, lent his dancing shoes to fellow dancer Jesus Carmona, called up from the audience by Poveda for a fiery improvisation.
Hats off, also, to Poveda’s genius guitarist Jesus Guerrero, a one-man orchestra: the only melodic instrument on stage all night, and what an instrument.
All I can say is, I’ll be seeing you again soon, Miguel.