Posted by: Richard Frost | 25 Apr 2020

Yerba Flamenco Dance Group review

Chorlton Arts Festival - logo for the multidisciplinary arts festival in south ManchesterOriginal publication date: May 2011
Outlet: Chorlton Arts Festival

Chorlton enjoys a slice of Spain

I may as well come clean now because you’re sure to work it out sooner or later. I know very little about flamenco. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching it done well, and I’ve seen a fair few performances since it became something of an obsession with my other half. Nevertheless, I’m not what you’d call an expert.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to watch an amateur flamenco show in the unlikely environs of Chorlton Conservative Club (which, incidentally, is exactly what you’d want a gritty northern social club to look like). It formed part of a diverse array of events under the Chorlton Arts Festival 2011 banner.

But would Yerba Flamenco Dance Group manage to grab my attention?

A taste of things to come
The evening started with a flamenco taster session. There was an impressive amount of audience participation here – of the 50 or so spectators, more than half were persuaded to give it a go. Dance instructor Brenda Story then proceeded to teach a short flamenco routine that had everyone flailing their hands and feet in unison (more or less).

Then came the proper stuff as Yerba Flamenco took to the stage. This was where the five members of the group, dressed in full flamenco garb, could show off their repertoire. There was a sevillana, a farruca, a fandango and an Arabic tango, all accompanied by pre-recorded music. Our instructor did a great job of introducing each dance, explaining both its history and what area of the Spanish-speaking world it came from.

Dance the night away
At this point in the review, it’s traditional to talk about whether the performances were actually any good or not. Now this is where I come a cropper. However, to my untrained eye, the dancers demonstrated a real confidence in their routines, and maintained their rhythm and intensity throughout. The solo farruca was particularly dramatic and my personal favourite.

The evening came to a close with some bulerias, which I’m reliably told is a popular way to end a flamenco show in Spain (you learn something new every day). As the two guitarists sprang into life in the corner, members of the audience were again encouraged to show off their flamenco moves, before Yerba Flamenco rounded things off with another passionate display.

Guitar heroes
If there was a criticism to be made, I’d argue it would’ve been nice to hear more live music from the guitarists and less pre-recorded stuff. As I understand it, the music is every bit as important as the dancing in flamenco, so it seemed a shame not to make greater use of the musicians on hand. However, as a free show put on by volunteers, it’s hard to pick faults, and the superb choreography ensured the lack of live music wasn’t keenly missed.

That reminds me. If it wasn’t for the guitarists, we would’ve missed out on a memorable heckle from our dance instructor. As the sound of their feedback momentarily brought the room to a standstill, she cried out: “Has a cameraman sat on your didgeridoo?” I didn’t understand it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Much like the flamenco in fact.


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