Flamenco has a wide range of musical forms: happy, sad, in between. The noblest is the solea. Melancholy, soulful and slow, it is fiendishly difficult to dance. And no living dancer performs it like Eva Yerbabuena.
Eva is so famous for her solea that, no matter how avant-garde a show she puts together, she feels duty-bound to perform it at the end. It's what the aficionados pay for. And at her four sold-out Sadler's Wells performances in London last week, they got their money's worth.
Apariencias, her new show, veered a little off course, initially. There was a Guinean-born vocalist, Alana Sinkey; there were bossa nova harmonies mixed into guitarist Paco Jarana's sophisticated musical arrangements; there were masks and skulls and men in skirts; and there was a bald female dancer wearing long patterned robes who struck statuesque poses and did little dancing. The overall theme was not entirely clear -- and the Sadler's Wells program notes failed to dispel the mystery.
Fortunately, a quartet of fine male dancers - including the talented Cristian Lozano - came to the rescue, performing together and solo, and delivering footwork pyrotechnics to the excited audience.
The piece de resistance, of course, was Eva herself and her solea, accompanied by the exceptional vocals of Jose Valencia and Alfredo Tejada. Appearing in a dark layered dress with two flowers perched in her hair, Eva emoted with every verse, sometimes delivering nothing more than a shrug of the shoulder or a flick of the wrist. The picture above gives a pretty good sense of her intensity. For flamenco devotees (including this one), the tears were hard to hold back. Here was expression at its absolute peak.
Eva Yerbabuena may be turning 47 this year, but she is at the very top of her game. She seems to get more poetic and expressive with time. Thankfully, flamenco is less ruthless than ballet when it comes to dancers' retirement age. So the world can hope to see Eva and her signature solea for many more years to come.