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Not Flamenco as you know it…a Review of 'House of Flamenka', the new West End dance spectacular

Guest post by Deborah Tarrant

As a very amateur flamenco dancer I was excited to see this new dance show. It is billed as a “lavish, extravagant and sexy fusion of Flamenco and Contemporary dance’ and that it certainly is.

Its creative team are of high pedigree, so I was expecting great things. It’s co-created and directed by dance legend Arlene Phillips (more generally known for Strictly judge fame) and co-created and produced by Flamenco star Karen Ruimy who leads an exceptional company of dancers from Madrid and the UK. (Note the Flamen’Ka).

Woman in red traditional flamenco dress with male dancer behind her
Karen with one of her dancers. Photo credit Pamela Raith

The show opened with a scene of opulence with the lead (Karen Rumily) dressed in a stunning traditional flamenco dress surrounded by her entourage of male attendants (dancers). Don’t expect a full-on female flamenco display as after a saunter across the stage she excited leaving her dancers to keep you spell bound by their energy and artistry. Karen returns throughout the show in a variety of lavish outfits to sing, dance and finally you are rewarded with a short traditional dance.

Male dancers on various height plinths
Some of the 'beautiful objects'. Photo credit Pamela Raith

The show’s story is ‘set in a fantasy world in the home of a goddess of music and dance, whose passion is collecting beautiful objects, her most prized possessions being 22 extraordinary dancers and musicians, who perform solely for her pleasure,’ and perform they do. It’s a nonstop collection of dances using a variety of props including the Spanish male costume hat for the hat dance where men dance together with the hats over their faces and then skilfully flipped and twirled, the flamenco fan is used to unusual dramatic effect, with feathers for neck frills, skirts and more worn on top of torsos clad in straps reminiscent of bondage mixed with more traditional flamenco wear.

Considering the number of props and the speed of the dancing it’s not surprising that the occasional slip was made: a hat lost, a chair flipped over, a feather skirt dropped. In true performer style, the dancers picked up or removed the item with a stylish move making it look like it was part of the plan all along!

Woman in blue silk long dress sits on stage surrounded by male dancers in gold costumes and feathered headpieces.  Photo credit Pamela Raith
The opulent costumes. Photo credit Pamela Raith

The staging cleverly used elevated platforms behind picture frames (including where the drummers performed) providing visual interest with the dancers climbing around the stage.

With an eclectic soundtrack, the show is a passionate fusion of very distinctive forms, full of explosive choreography both Flamenco (Frandisco Hidalgo) and contemporary (James Cousins). There are moments of disbelief at the speed of the flamenco footwork, and then the almost balletic graceful moves mixed with dramatic, slightly uncomfortable, contortions of the body. The show was fast moving and captured your attention pulling you into the energetic, erotic, and passionate dances so the time flew by.

The show only runs until 8th October and is well worth a trip to the Peacock Theatre, a modern functional theatre which is part of Sadler's Wells and nestled just off The Strand.

Peacock Theatre Address: Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT

Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes (including one 20 minute interval)

Tickets: Prices from: £18.00


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