Part dancer, character actress, caricature and genuine individual.

By: Jul. 14, 2023
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Review: FLAMENCO FESTIVAL: SI, QUIERO, Sadler's Wells Researching Mercedes de Córdoba is no mean feat…and mostly takes you to car dealerships in southern Spain! But like the most beautiful of automobiles - de Córdoba is said to “powerfully convey emotions”. 

Her work Sí, quiero (meaning ‘yes, I want’) looks at a group of women creating their own wedding ceremony. And as such occasions normally unfold, we’re promised “peace and passion, hope and madness”. 

Long story short, the show is a roller-coaster. A turbulent ride of yes, no, maybe, absolutely yes, and I can't get enough. Enough of de Córdoba to be absolutely precise. What a complex, intriguing individual she is. Part dancer, character actress, caricature and genuine individual. 

The performance is super well rehearsed but also lost in certain moments. de Córdoba enters at the beginning like a hurricane - zero foreplay. It feels a bit heavy-handed initially, and her choice of wide-leg trousers seems misguided as they hide all the best stuff. 

She's supported by five musicians and four female dancers. The soloist dancers all have presence and technical prowess, but some of their opening choreography is a little on the light, going nowhere side. In the second half of the show they act as guests at the wedding celebration (of sorts), and give a flamenco-infused rendition of Stomp using the crockery, cutlery and glassware on the fiesta table to create 'music'. Clever? Perhaps. Dated? It's a yes from me. 

Things are more successful earlier on where they act as physical memoirs of de Córdoba's, or her character's, own self at different periods in a life: a carefree, castanet-playing youth, a troubled, one half of a relationship, and a bride playing her socially expected role with obvious hardship.

To de Córdoba. She offers three solos and one main group dance during the course of the evening. And boy does she convey emotion. Her performance being the first in the Flamenco Festival where I was truly transported to Spain - and specifically to a dark, sala somewhere in Córdoba. 

She emits drama 24/7. Through her expressive hands, focused eyes, muttering mouth, fiendish turns and aggressive footwork. I could watch her stomp around the stage in time to the percussive rhythm for an eternity. Periodically what she's offering could feel too obvious, but her execution is so raw one can only accept that it's totally genuine.

Her first solo in red velvet is both haunted and haunting. During the beginning section she's in direct movement conversation with one of the singers, but once he exits she continues to chastise her ghosts and demons. At times stampeding towards them, at others brandishing her back and stomping away. I don't think I've ever seen a pelvis move with so much emotion, and witness a dance-fuelled climax reached through frustration boiling over into precise thrashing. 

In the later celebration scene she arrives in a quintessential cherry tomato, red flamenco dress, and executes incredibly skilled shawl/cape action and fishtail dress buckaroo-ing. Throughout she's totally unfazed and engages her contemporaries and audience with apparent ease.

The four performances I've seen during the Flamenco Festival leave me chomping at the bit for more in 2024. Flamenco is a truly broad, deep and expressive art form - and understandably attracts the most gifted of artists, de Córdoba being a prime example; an unfinished story - an ongoing revelation. 

The Flamenco Festival continues at Sadler's Wells until 15 July

Photo Credit: Beatrix Mexi Molnar


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