Paco Peña's Quimeras Colston Hall 8/10
PACO Peña is one of the greatest flamenco guitarists and composers.
With his world-famous Flamenco Dance Company, he has produced an ambitious music and dance project, Quimeras, that seeks to marry the culture and energy of the Spanish dance with African drumming and dance.
Without a written programme to explain the political message of the piece (the problems and conflicts faced by African migrants coming into Southern Europe) it is left to the audience to work out the story.
This proved not too difficult in practice since the Spanish guitarists and box drum occupied the left stage while the African drummers and kora player were confined to the right.
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First, traditional flamenco dancers performed in their formal strutting style and drummed their heels. Then the bare-foot Africans performed in their freer more expressionistic style and drummed their drums. The centre stage confrontation between the two groups was reminiscent of the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story.
Peña himself, apart from two spotlit solo instrumentals, took his place beside the other two guitarists. The strong heartfelt Spanish and African vocals with their wailing melodic lines emphasised the similarity of the two cultures with their common root in the Moorish tradition. The kora playing could not match the virtuosity of Peña's guitar – but it would be interesting to see him perform against an African maestro like the kora player Seckou Keita who played in the hall only a week ago.
After the interval the stage was set out to resemble a flamenco cafe with the Africans as waiters. The division between the cultures breaks down as the dancers demonstrate their distinctive styles.
A pivotal moment occurs when the dark-suited Spanish dancer takes off his shoes to dance. The energy displayed throughout is breathtaking and the artistic director Jude Kelly has done a magnificent job in creating an atmosphere that matches the intensity of the music.
Quimera or chimera is the figurative term for a wild free fancy and is an apt way of summing up this spectacular show.