Paco Pena’s Quimeras comes from a good place.
It’s a dance-off between West African and Flamenco dancers. Each showing the best their culture can offer, woven around a theme of African immigration to Europe.
It is about people risking their lives, getting on rickety boats, carrying their hopes and dreams in their body and souls then meeting suspicion, rejection, aggression and death (an estimated 4,000 people have died in the Atlantic crossing since 1997)
Paco Pena, the guitarist and musical conceptualist, famed for taking top-class Flamenco productions around the world, says:
“In the past Spain has sent its people across the world in search of a new life. Now a modern prosperous country, Spain itself is the aspirational home for many immigrants from poorer countries.
Quimeras brings to life the journeys of migrants and refugees, reflecting both good and bad aspects of their dreams, the reality of their lives and their connection with the people on the other side of the frontiers they cross.”
The three extra-ordinary Ghanaian dancers (Victoria Dzivenu, Michael Nii Amon Neequaye and Gilbert Yaw Cofie) show love, devotion and honour through acrobatic, vigorous, agile and masterful moves and play out the story.
It’s a theme that allows both cultures to show their best and satisfy the ‘Oceans Apart’ theme of the Edinburgh International Festival as well as thrill the audience with exhilarating and sensual Flamenco dances.
I was enjoying it very much.
However, a very unfortunate thing happened on my way to the ice cream parlour at half time.
I chatted to an elegant Morningsider sitting next to me. We exchanged views on what we’d seen, loved and hated. Surprisingly, she hadn’t enjoyed Gospel At Colonus. “Because the main characters were too old for the parts.”
I disagreed. But as the second part of Quimeras began, I began noticing all the “too old” parts of Quimeras.
The Flamenco dancers, despite all their incredible grace and agility, were too old to be sexy. There was no appeal in watching old ladies with bulging guts or tremulous bingo wings playing the lead sexy role.
Dont get me wrong, these women were beautiful but there comes a time in life when your joie de vivre and sexiness has to be toned down a bit.
It was like watching a drunken old Auntie kicking up her heels and raising her skirts at a formal wedding. Or watching Madonna make her scrawny re-entry into the charts writhing around in a skimpy leotard. The expression “Put it away, luv” sprang to mind.
The blokes, despite incredible physical prowess and execution, looked like Dads at a Disco wearing crinkled corduroys and cuban heels like wannabe lotharios but who actually prefer taking their kids down the park and having an enjoyable family picnic.
At one point, Angel Munoz, an amazingly lithe dancer, was giving it lalldy toreador-style. But one’s eyes were drawn to the non-moving, sassy, soulful, hand-clapping, foot-stomping singer Antonia Nogareo.
She was young. The Ghanaian dancers were young. The male singer, Jose Angel Carmona, was young. My eyes were wrapt.
Am I totally evil and prejudiced about older dancers performing sensual dance routines on the international stage?
Despite all this prejudice, it was a thrilling, intense and dynamic performance with tremendous sound and visuals.
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Check the video of Quimeras and interview with Paco Pena
© Fin Wycherley
- This week’s new dance (guardian.co.uk)
- Paco Pena’s Quimeras, the Edinburgh Playhouse, review (telegraph.co.uk)