Manuela Carrasco Jerez Festival

Manuela Carracso is known as the  ‘Queen of Gypsy Flamenco’ and her show was like a scene from an Almodovar film.  It is probably the most kitsch performance  I have ever seen, a real retro call back to the atmosphere of tablao shows  in the 1960s and 70s. In her press conference Carrasco asserted her race declaring ‘Soy Gitana’ differentiating herself from most other dancers leading their own shows here.  She said she would use no scenery as she was the show and indeed she began every piece in which she took part by simply standing under the spotlight, her arms flung wide as if declaring ‘Here I Am’.  Carrasco  radiates a fusion of majestic power with an extraordinary pride bordering on arrogance  born of years of performance and potent belief in her gypsy roots.  When she dances, despite her 57 years she pounds the floor in rapid  fire mode with the energy of  a teeenager. Lack of nuance introduces the trace of  a  child having a tantrum, everything is fierce  and furious with a hint of  disdain as if bent on defying expectations. For each dance Carrasco  entered wearing a different dress covered by a patterned silk shawl and even a full bullfighter cape, discarding them abruptly to begin a series of brooding postures building up to her amazing footwork  whether for soleá or zapateado de bulerías.  With a bank of musicians on one side of the small stage within the stage from which she began dacning each time, and four singers  to  the other side,  this show was pared down to essentials.  Her imperious attitude dominated everything and everybody so that the four young men who made up her corps de dance, all dressed alike  bull-fighter mode style,  could not escape the  feeling of uniformity cast upon them and their  supporting roles dancing  caña and tangos.  Singers included  Enrique el Extremeño,   a giant of a man who sang full throttle, establishing a partnership of great power with Carrasco. The Diario de Jerez suggested they had timed Carrasco  dancing and in total it lasted a vigourous fifteen minutes.  Suffice to say  that the audience – many of them visiting dance students – adored Carrasco,  as one of the few authentic gypsy dancers left of her generaration offering an unadulterated style of performance which cannot be argued with.  While her style, like a  volcano erupting, is not to everyone’s taste  it is unique.  Her spirit and total feistiness are magnificent to witness.  There is nothing equivocal about what she does and her imprint will be long lasting.

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About Jan Fairley

I am an experienced and passionate ethnomusicologist working as an arts and music journalist and broadcaster, writer and editor as well as researcher, lecturer, radio presenter and producer. I have a breadth of organising experience at home and abroad. I am a fluent Spanish speaker. I love travelling and have worked abroad (notably Chile 1971-3 and again in 1994) and researched in Cuba, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Finland.
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