Dance Corazon Flamenco Sadler's Wells, London

'Had Sanchez simply trusted in the unadulterated talents of this fine group, it would have been better'
Click to follow
In abandoning, if only temporarily, the winning formula that was his Cumbre Flamenca troupe, Francisco Sanchez has made a brave move. Or has he? Over the past few years, Cumbre Flamenca's visits to Britain have prompted a phenomenal resurgence of interest in Spain's indigenous dance. Now, Sanchez returns to London with a new line-up of dancers in a two-part show - a package given the rather unimaginative title of Corazon Flamenco (corazon meaning heart).

Fuelled by Cumbre's success, Sanchez is now attempting to explore the narrative possibilities of flamenco, but "Noche de Santiago", the first half of Corazon Flamenco, is a dance-drama so ludicrously over-played that it ends up almost parodying its own means of expression.

Anything to which Sanchez puts his name and effort is bound to be taken seriously. The reaction to "Noche de Santiago", however, suggests that nobody is taking Sanchez as seriously as he takes himself on this outing. The prelude offers a series of brief introductory solos for the assembled company of singers, guitarists and dancers, but it's a private party in which the performers seem to relate only to each other and, even then, without much interest or enthusiasm.

The most sustained and promising episode features Ana Soler - a dancer whose arms rise and rotate in delicious contrast to the wild hopscotch of her legs and feet - and Arturo Aguilar encircling each other in a duet of agonisingly lustful approach and retreat. His protagonists - Soler playing the Wife, Aguilar as the Gypsy Man - firmly established, Sanchez (the Husband) then sets them on a journey of adulterous passion. A pas de deux of awkwardly erotic choreography during which clothes and accessories are thrown into the wings and the audience can no longer stifle its desire to laugh, leads predictably to a scene of revenge and death, with Soler ending up in a king-sized dog basket, by which time polite giggles from the dress circle have become uncontrollable guffaws.

Fortunately, Sanchez fashions the second half, "Lo Mas Hondo", as more traditional flamenco fare, with siguiriya, alegrias, solea and bulerias offering myriad possibilities for individual expression and adventure. Star guest Manuela Carrasco has the kind of well-padded torso and hell- hag face attributable to either over-indulgence or prolonged degradation, but always speaking of a fascinating, indestructible pride. With a single, pained toss of the head or a seductive hitching of her hemline, Carrasco demonstrates the power of detail and gesture in the throes of flamenco's larger and more labour-intensive concerns.

Similarly, the cantes de levante, sung by guest vocalist Susi accompanied by her brother, guitarist Joaquin Amador, was memorable for its economy of means, guitar and voice working in unified emphasis of one another. It made you feel that, had Sanchez simply trusted in the unadulterated talents of this fine group of artists, Corazon Flamenco would have been a much better show.

n To 10 Feb. Booking: 0171-278 6563