Remembering the fact that I used to get tickets to (nearly) all the shows, sitting in the middle seat of the front row in Sadler’s Wells to be glued to the stage, it sounds unbelievable even to myself.
What I am talking about is the London Flamenco Festival, which returned after the pandemic-driven cancellation in 2020. So… I should’ve been excited at its return this year, however… I felt rather reluctant somehow, and ended up not quite seeing it.
There is nothing wrong with the theatre or the artists or the organisation or the festival itself. Personally, finance-wise, June is very inconvenient for me, prioritising our annual holiday in Barcelona; I miss the old days when the festival used to be in February…
I understand that the festival organiser tries to bring ‘the best’ from Spain, and apparently all the artists are high-profile, worth watching once or more. Although I respect and admire their effort and hard work, the lineup of the past few years tends to be filled with familiar faces. To be very honest, it’s more ‘again?’ than ‘wow, I must see it!’. As we all have different tastes and different emotional as well as artistic necessities, it’d be impossible to gather acts to cater to everyone.
Sadly I wasn’t strongly tempted to get tickets to those shows this year, partly because I’ve seen most of the invited artists and similar productions elsewhere before but mainly because I subconsciously compared the costs to other possibilities: I could go to more ballet or other arty events for the same price or even less… and maybe I could be more inspired by those ‘other possibilities’… In fact, during the Flamenco Festival, I rather chose to see the opera ‘Così Fan Tutte’ at the Royal Opera House and, while being on the website of Sadler’s Wells, I opted for ‘Don Quixote’ by Birmingham Royal Ballet in the following week. So… our tight budget was eventually spent on such ‘other possibilities’.
Actually, during the festival someone kindly offered me a ticket to see Estrella Morente and I felt grateful for it. The concert, however, got cancelled due to the singer's illness. In the end, the only tickets I bought this year were for ‘Flamenco Is Not A Crime’ on the last day, 2nd July, which was rather an experimental DJ night than a live dance/music production.
The majority of the audience was young Spanish people who got driven by the aggressive beat, enjoying themselves on the dance floor. My husband and I also stood up to join them in the Spanish rave atmosphere.
Dancing among the young Spaniards to the controversial yet artistic remix of flamenco and electronic sounds, I was contemplating about the target audience of the festival, especially the shows in the main theatre. The lineup with superstars obviously attract local flamenco fans at a certain degree, but maybe the main focus is on those who are not yet familiar with flamenco, who are curious about what flamenco is, rather than those who have already had quite a few flamenco experiences, just like the commercialised flamenco shows in Spanish cities are targeted at tourists.
An act like ‘Flamenco Is Not A Crime’ wasn’t for either conservative flamenco fans or flamenco novices, but it certainly enchanted and entertained Spaniards. We also loved it, feeling as if the Sónar Festival was brought over from Barcelona to London.
Despite the initial reluctance I’m glad to have caught up with the Flamenco Festival at the last minute. I hope to feel more enthusiastic about the entire festival next year and personally wish it can move back to February or another month instead of June…