Israel Galvan: Freedom from conventions - review

There is no end to his innovative lexicon, shifting between complex rhythms while his face reflects his tensions, thoughts and emotions, and is constantly active.

 ISRAEL GALVAN single-handedly revolutionized the perception of traditional flamenco. (photo credit: NICOLAS SERVE)
ISRAEL GALVAN single-handedly revolutionized the perception of traditional flamenco.
(photo credit: NICOLAS SERVE)

Israel Galvan, ‘La Edad De Oro,’ Suzanne Dellal, March 25

When Israel Galvan (b. 1973) entered the stage, the thunderous applause was overwhelming before he took a single step forward. The arrival of this highly celebrated dancer-choreographer inflamed the audience as no other flamenco dancer could today. Galvan rose to fame as the one who single-handedly revolutionized the perception of traditional flamenco.

Considering that he grew up in Seville, home of flamenco, in a family of traditional flamenco dancers, his career took an unexpected turn when he challenged the conventions of “pure” flamenco. His visit here was the ultimate treat for all attending the Flamenco Days Festival.

Galvan was invited to present his early solo work, “La Edad De Oro” (The Golden Age), which had solidified his worldwide reputation. “First I deconstruct and then I rebuild it, yet, it is still flamenco,” he said. “To be precise it is neo-flamenco.”

The performance had changed since I first saw it a decade and a half ago. It was a pleasure to notice that the current version includes a greater degree of freedom of conventions and richer movement vocabulary, particularly in its gentle nuances.

 FLAMENCO STAR Israel Galvan (credit: NICOLAS SERVE) FLAMENCO STAR Israel Galvan (credit: NICOLAS SERVE)

The purists must have had a hard time trying to absorb the changes, but soon after Galvan won international recognition as an innovative choreographer/dancer, others tried to follow his path, adopting a similar approach and exploring their own way within the new arena.

It was a one-man show, as far as Galvan’s presence. He can actually stand still on one foot, gently spread his fingers above his head and electrify the hall. Most of the time he crossed the stage walking in profile – a rare choreographic decision. One could watch how differently he moved and held his body, in comparison to the rigid upper body of the traditional male flamenco dancer. 

His feet are very powerful and swift, his rhythms could accelerate until the heel-clicks sound like a fast sawing machine, while concurrently, his arms fly gently up like a bird’s wings.

There is no end to his innovative lexicon, shifting between complex rhythms while his face reflects his tensions, thoughts and emotions, and is constantly active.

Although he dances solo, he is never alone since he is accompanied by his long-time trusted partners: flamenco singer David Lagos, and Alfredo Lagos on the flamenco guitar. They echo his moves, which become music through endless ways of body percussion on his torso, soles, teeth, elbows, or knees and toes knocking on the floor.

The long standing ovation was reciprocated when Galvan tried to sing, the singer pretended to play the guitar, and the guitarist tried to dance or vice versa. It was a typical hilarious ending, flamenco style.