Rome's advertising spaces are carpeted with posters for Las Estrellas, two flamenco evenings on 28 and 29 January at the large Auditorium Parco della Musica – some Spanish passion to warm up these chilly winter evenings.
Italy and Spain are close cousins, and flamenco has always had its place in Italian life, often riding on the popularity of exceptional dancers – there was a boom after Carlos Saura's film 1981 film Blood Wedding with Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos (Gades even danced with Italy's star ballerina Carla Fracci), Joaquín Cortés came to the fore from the 1990s, and for a decade Sergio Bernal has begun to draw ever-growing audiences to Spanish dance. Bernal is well-known in Italy because of his participation in Daniele Cipriani's annual Les Ètoiles galas where he performs alongside stars of the Russian, French, British and American ballet – his performances are guaranteed to bring the house down. He is also becoming a familiar face on Italian television.
Las Estrellas will see Bernal together with 24 dancers from the Ballet Nacional de España, the company he left in 2019 to form his own touring company.
On the 28 and 29 January the Director of the Ballet Nacional de España, Rubén Olmo, will also be dancing:
The Las Estrellas Gala will show all the facets of Spanish dance… Being able to take Spanish dance to many countries and show the wealth of its disciplines and styles is a source of pride for us.
Olmo has directed the company since 2019. The Ballet Nacional de España was founded in 1978 with Antonio Gades as its first director, its purpose to “preserve, spread and convey Spain's rich choreographic heritage, including its diverse styles and traditions, which are represented by different forms: academic, stylised, folklore, bolero, and flamenco”.
Apart from Sergio Bernal, guests include some of the most important names in flamenco with Patricia Guerrero, Jesús Carmona, Belén López (who dances with her two young children, Sandra, 8, and Antonio, 6) and Ana Morales. Also onstage are the singers Jose Luis Medina and Pedro Jiménez González, and the musicians Sergio Gómez “El Colorao”, Carlos Jiménez and Rafael Jiménez “El Chispas”.
Seeing authentic Spanish dance (and probably not that danced in dinner shows in Spanish restaurants) is to experience its subtlety and not just endless loud stomping; as Antonio Gades said, “The earth is not trampled, sounds are made by stroking it.” He added, “The great thing about flamenco is its restraint. It does not explode, but there is an enormous energy, sensuality and eroticism that vibrates all the time, but there is also austerity… asceticism.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.