As ‘Australia’s only national flamenco company,’ Flamenco Fire has established a strong following over its first twenty years. The team celebrated this milestone in Viente Años—a show that combined highlights from their first two decades of performance with the work of visiting Spanish flamenco artists and the strings of Camerata (Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra). Viente Años premiered at Brisbane’s QPAC Concert Hall on Thursday 26 September, as part of the 2019 Brisbane Festival. It’s a large venue, and the premiere was suitably packed with adoring fans of their work, and of flamenco.
Andrew Veivers (Director, and guitarist) compiled a program that touched on some of the different aspects or styles of flamenco—from the more traditional passionate and focused use of shawls and dresses with trains through to the light-hearted, and almost coquettish, early duet between Francesca ‘La Chica’ Grima and Simone Pope (think ‘two little maids are we’ meets flamenco).
Andrej Vujicic’s percussion was a vital engine for the whole show—particularly when Vujicic joined La Chica and Pope with his mesmerising performance with flamenco walking canes. But this was not the only highlight. Personal favourites from the two-hour program included La Chica’s fabulous bata de cola dance (bathed in suitably passionate red lighting), Simone Pope’s solos (for me, in particular the first solo, when attired in black), and the moments when Olayo Jiménez took to centre stage. I may not have understood a word that Jiménez sang, but the expressive vocal work by this renowned flamenco singer was compelling, and his opening solo was virtually a show-stopper (prompting one of his occasional flashes of an almost cheeky smile). But all of the performers had their moment to shine—including the crowd-pleasing second-half performance by Fernando Mira, with an extended masterclass of thunderous and highly-controlled flamenco dancing.
My previous, limited, experience of flamenco has been in smaller bars and theatres in Spain, giving the opportunity to be much closer to the passionate and focused interactions between dancers, singer and musicians. The QPAC Concert Hall is a large venue, so including Camerata was a sensible choice, but I am sure the show would work equally well in a smaller space and just with the cantaor, dancers (ideally with an additional male dancer), percussionist, and guitarists—perhaps creating the opportunity to hear more from the two guitarists during the evening if a chamber orchestra is not included in a program (Veivers was joined by the equally-talented Kieren Ray). And although the lighting was suitably colourful, it was often better when not churning through all of the colours of the LED rainbow.
But a large following means a large venue is needed for major celebrations—as demonstrated by the very few empty seats in the QPAC Concert Hall. The evening ended with the audience erupting into a standing ovation. A suitably passionate response to a triumphant celebration of the art of flamenco that will have pleased long-standing friends and attracted many new followers.
Verdict: Look out for Flamenco Fire—particularly if you can find them in a more intimate venue.
Audience notes: 120 minutes, plus 20 minute interval. All ages. Limited haze effects. There was only one performance during the 2019 Brisbane Festival 26 September 2019, 7:30pm. QPAC Concert Hall tickets were $69-$89 (plus booking fee).
The reviewer attended the Thursday 26 September 2019 performance (7:30pm).
Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography