Israel Galván brings his own, compelling version of Igor Stravinsky’s
Le Sacre du printemps to the London stage
Expect the unexpected as Israel Galván delivers a performance of mesmerising brilliance and originality in La Consagración de la Primavera (The Rite of Spring). His fearless, contemporary approach to flamenco is entirely his own and he commands the stage with unadulterated charisma. It’s as if he is a rare breed of human being, able to bottle all our sensory experiences. The sound of his fleet zapateado, mingling with the crunch of his boots on a gravelly surface, the multiple boards and platforms placed strategically across the stage, amplified to varying degrees, make each phrase a surprise. Galván breaks the rules at every opportunity, yet his classical flamenco still remains at the heart of his work. There is no orchestra but two grand pianos placed stage right, played with exceptional panache by Daria van den Bercken and Gerard Bouwhuis in Stravinsky’s own reduction for four hands. They are integral to Galván’s plotting and make us hear the score in a fresh, illuminating way. In addition, they play Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K87 and Frederic Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues miraculously segueing into less harrowing passages of music.
Galván’s response to the music is visceral and because of his innate sense of rhythm, this Rite feels like a very good fit. Even when barefoot, his feet find the floor and hold spectacular conversations with it, either seated or standing. At once he becomes a maverick performer and nothing distracts us from watching his magnetic, intimate moves.
There are nods to Nijinsky’s L’aprés-midi d’un faune in his posture and arm movements; there are even moments of humour but throughout his 70 minute performance, it is his unwavering focus and the intensity with which he executes absolutely every breath, that keeps us hooked in for the duration. Even the way he enters and exits the stage in order to add or subtract to his costume, has a certain flourish. Galván is eminently watchable and whilst he had clearly captivated the audience, he seemed almost surprised at the warmth of the reception. This is worth seeing no matter where he is in the world.
By Deborah Weiss