Skip to main content Skip to footer site map


Review: ISABEL BAYON COMPAÑÍA - DJU-DJU, Sadler's Wells Review: ISABEL BAYON COMPAÑÍA - DJU-DJU, Sadler's Wells Sadler's Wells' annual season of flamenco is now in its 15th year. It offers a varied bill, from the traditional and vibrant to more contemporary interpretations. In the case of Isabel Bayón's new work, Dju-Dju, the slightly eccentric too.

It's a 90-minute romp exploring traditions, superstitions and rituals in dance. Bayón repeatedly crosses herself theatrically, breathing deeply, between singing, dancing and acting her way through the piece; she hams up the role well in the comedic moments.

Bayón is accompanied by three zany musicians who provide commentary and charisma throughout. Guitarist Jesús Torres makes a memorable entrance in a white smock and sandals, channelling his own namesake. He embraces various audience members, beckons down some cherubs, which descend from the ceiling next to a miniature silver Christmas tree - not your typical flamenco fare. He whitters away in Spanish while keyboardist Alejandro Rojas-Marcos provides a rough translation with more than a hint of cynicism.

As wonderfully powerful and charged as Bayon's movements are, there feels like a lot of waiting around for them. She enters on a broomstick, messes around with that for a while before we get the first flamenco section and she is seated for much of that.

There are sometimes long pauses between the dance highlights that allow for loss of momentum, but when they come they are entrancing. Bayón's small frame is charged with passion as she completes a whirlwind of stamps and spins.

Amongst the superstitions is the colour yellow, and she goes on to complete a dance with a lurid neon trilby. She commands the prop effortlessly, almost allowing it to partner her. Bayón remains strong with an enigmatic presence, her hypnotic footwork beautifully rhythmical. It makes one long for a bit more use to be made of her rather than the plethora of unusual props that feature. (A white cat, crystal ball, tiny stools...)

The piece's quirky, kitsch aesthetic is summed up when a masked figure springs up from nowhere and cuts a string on our beloved Jesús's guitar. Torres continues to play on the remaining strings and the masked figure continues to cut them. Torres then beats out a rhythm on the instrument's wooden frame. The masked figure, getting increasingly irate, removes the guitar entirely; Torres continues to to drum against his chest. The masked figure disappears, infuriated.

Regular viewers of dance or just flamenco will find charm behind the bizarre narrative of Dju-Dju, but those new to the festival and/or the dance form may find the Spanish commentary, random props and bitty presentation just a little too eccentric to be accessible.

Sadler's Wells' Flamenco Festival runs until 25 February

Image credit: Oscar Romero

Regional Awards

From This Author - Vikki Jane Vile

Vikki Jane Vile has been reviewing dance for ten years, specialising in Ballroom and classical dance. In 2018, she became a member of the Critics' Circle for Dance.

She prides hersel... (read more about this author)

September 16, 2022

Comprising over fifty Ukrainian refugee dancers, the United Ukrainian Ballet’s debut in London was always going to be a moving and courageous showing.

BWW Review: WILD TANGO at Peacock TheatreBWW Review: WILD TANGO at Peacock Theatre
May 17, 2022

Save for COVID, German Cornejo and his company of Tango dancers have thrilled audiences with their sultry, authentic displays of the much loved Ballroom dance for countless seasons in London. It may have been predictable but it was enjoyable and well executed. Now for their return post-pandemic, they are trying something new, but unfortunately it’s a much poorer vehicle for displaying the talents of highly skilled dancers.

BWW Review: BALLET BLACK at Theatre Royal, Stratford EastBWW Review: BALLET BLACK at Theatre Royal, Stratford East
May 16, 2022

Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black turned 20 last year and to mark this milestone they celebrated with a double bill of two works seen at the Barbican earlier this year and now touring; one an out and proud affirmation on their journey as a company and the second a tribute to their ancestry and heritage.

BWW Review: CASANOVA at Sadler's WellsBWW Review: CASANOVA at Sadler's Wells
May 12, 2022

Five years since its premiere, Kenneth Tindall’s Casanova remains a distinctive and highly engaging addition to Northern Ballet’s repertoire. It’s danced with confident storytelling by its cast and Christopher Oram’s set design is glossy and slick and of course, it’s pretty hot, this is all about seduction not smut. It’s only foible remains the heft of the narrative.

BWW Review: JEWELS at Staatsoper Unter Den LindenBWW Review: JEWELS at Staatsoper Unter Den Linden
April 22, 2022

With the closing months of Staatsballett Berlin’s 21/22 season turning its attention to some full length classics including Sleeping Beauty and Onegin, an alternative is offered in the form of George Balachine’s plotless ballet, Jewels. It’s a celebrated neo-classical work which can be seen in the repertoire of companies across the world. With its dazzling costumes and featuring music from Stravinsky and Tchiakovsky, both traditionalists and contemporary fans can find something to enjoy in its beauty.