Having been a fan of Israel Galván for some time, nothing had prepared me for the overwhelming experience of seeing him live.
Great seats at the intimate Playhouse in the Sydney Opera House, put me right at his feet. I see the dust rise from the floor as Israel Galván’s lightning fast technique, cracked open the first percussive sounds made by this ‘Flamenco Superstar’ in Australia.
Israel mentions afterwards, “the wood is different in Australia, more slippery!” He is however, very happy to be here, calling Australia the opposite side of the world. The Playhouse floor had been built up with squares of, what looked to me like, particle board and during the show Israel frequently visited a tray of rosin, hidden behind his chair. The boards were well miked so that you could hear every sound, the crunching rosin, every finger click, every body slap and when Israel dances there are literally hundreds of these every few minutes. His entire body is called upon to become a percussive instrument and to the delight of the audience this creates unique, yet subtle bursts of occasional flamenco humor that build upon each other throughout the entire show. For most of the show, I was mesmerized by his seriously talented performance, but during the two encores I was wiping tears of laughter from my face. If you are going to see the show, make sure you make a lot of noise at the end of “La Edad de Oro,” you will not want to miss the encores. It’s worth travelling to Sydney just to see those final fun-filled minutes!!!
“Outstanding… Brilliant… Mind Blowing!!!”
During this 75 minute performance, and when Israel is ON, you can’t take your eyes off him. When he dances there is so much going on, so much to watch and at times he appears to be relating to some invisible apparition, a presence in front of him that only he can see.
The guitarist and singer need a special mention here and although Israel’s talent shines throughout. This show is a conversation between a flamenco guitarist, a singer, and a dancer. Alfred Lagos‘ guitar is brilliant, crisp and bright, he is so comfortable accompanying the cante of David Lagos, a singer with a great deal of presence and power. Israel explains later that… “they are brothers, two sides of the one face!” As he says this, he is flipping a palm from one side of his face to the other. If you find yourself wondering what this avant-garde show is about, it is important to remember that you are watching three mates talking together on stage in a unique language that is fluent to all of them!
Chatting with Israel after the show it becomes very apparent that he enjoys having fun with flamenco, it is the reason he is on a different path to most flamenco dancers. His flamenco technique is strong and was obviously mastered long ago. I asked him a little about his father and the moment when he began to propel himself in a new direction. He tells me, “I didn’t want to be enclosed in a body that had been imposed upon me. I wanted to keep on having fun!”
Israel Galván can seem like a giant on stage, out there, in your face and challenging every notion you have of flamenco. Off stage he prefers to hide away from the limelight, he wants to try an Australian beer and seems more relaxed just chatting casually than he would be, with a more formal interview. His words come to you via a very relaxed conversation between two people who are struggling somewhat with the others language, but we are surrounded by helpful interjections of both English and Spanish, so all is well.
I asked Israel who inspires him, “Each dancer (bailaor y bailaora) has their own perfume when they dance and it is beautiful to experience the different aromas.” When Israel dances, it is almost like he is channeling all those dancers, one body with many dancers inside, all dancing at once, but with a miraculous harmony. At times he has all the delicacy of a ballerina and then suddenly, he is all macho and the embodiment of masculine energy. Like watching clouds roll by, you begin to see your own imagery – a rooster, a train, a bull – the surrealism begins to happen in your own mind. He places a line or a hand in the most obscure of places, at times it’s weird, but there is more to it than just being ‘out there’… Suddenly, it is revealed, that backward turned hand, making strange angles is exactly where it needs to be because now he can squeeze one more percussive sound out of his performance as the other hand passes by.
From the first time that I saw Israel, I loved his style, I enjoyed the randomness and the massive amount of energy, technique and inspiration that he packs into one moment on stage. Having seen the Sydney show, I was left wishing I had bought tickets for a second night.
It wasn’t until I had the chance to relax with him over a beer that I truly ‘got’ Israel Galvan… He has never stopped having fun with flamenco and dance! This is his gift to you, one that makes every performance unique and special.
It would be hard not to take inspiration from an Israel Galván show, he talked about this show being a homage to ‘the golden age of flamenco’ but believes their is always a flamenco golden age for someone, somewhere and in every decade.
Israel Galván was here as part of the Spring Dance Festival which includes the work of Pina Bausch and Meryl Tankard, and his appeal goes beyond that of someone believing that they are going to see traditional flamenco.
Enjoy the show (ends August 28 – Sydney Opera House).
…article by Paul French