Isabel Rivera Cuenca and the Flamenco Project

26 March 2018, Hastings Community Arts Centre
By Megan Seawright

There’s a kind of earth in some voices, that unmistakable tone that resonates deep and reminds us all we are born from a womb, the kind of womb that’s full – just like the earth. This kind of cadence sings the sorrows of our hearts and rises us elated, back to happiness. Singer Anna Colom (Barcelona) welcomes us into these places. She quakes open our skin and bones to reach our heart note by note through songs that say, I love you, I lost you, I am torn till I have no carriage, such is my lament.

Immediately, even the most uncertain of us to the Flamenco form, has fallen in. It’s unavoidable, our senses are saturated in pose, a solid core slightly turned, hands clapping, and seemingly contained gestures that implode with elemental energy.

When Isabel Rivera Cuenca (Southern Spain) descends the stairs and turns towards us, she is at times a bird with wings arising in sequences of definitive gesture, all concise and given way to an old language of infinite and traditional grace. There are the slight pauses, the clipped footing and the world wholly formed in each expression. Through quiet indicators she erupts into a swell, demanding connection, ‘here I am, I stomp my feet for you, I claim your attention’. And we give it. Three dress changes, the flair of a few flying hair combs and flowers. There’s her enduring temperament through elegant shoes – especially the bright yellow ones – and back arched rotations set to quiver. They all leave us transfixed.

All the while there is further tampering by a thousand strokes, as the two guitarists Exequiel Coria (Buenos Aires,) and New Zealand’s own Ian Sinclair carry these occasions. And along with Flamenco Project’s box drum percussionist, they all collude in the musical vigour that is that circular Flamenco sound. The musicians court the dancer and as Isabel stands before them, she replies in catch-me rhythms, always illusive and captivating everyone’s full senses.

Were we too overwhelmed? The audience frequently stilled in silence til thundering applauses and offerings of ovation. The performers finish trailing upstairs through us, everyone is standing, the full house having become a home. The natural inclusivity of our community Arts (Inc) space heightening the intimacy of our experience. It seems this Spanish Mission-styled building is coming into its own through an increasingly brilliant offering of performances, in addition to the rotating visual arts exhibitions. Look out for at least two more captivating performances on offer before the full Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival later this year.

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