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Last night Eva Yerbabuena’s new show opened at Sadler’s Wells, London. Cuando yo era… (When I was…) was premièred at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville on 5 October 2010 during the Bienal de Flamenco in Seville.

Just as in her two more recent shows, El Huso de la Memoria (The Spindle of Memory) and Lluvia (Rain), this show looks back on life. The photograph below gives some idea of the non-traditional flamenco elements that have been incorporated into the show, which opens and closes in a potter’s workshop.


Photograph by Rubén Martín.

Eva Yerbabuena is one of the finest and most celebrated flamenco bailaoras of her generation and deservedly so. But like all inspired creative artists, she is always restless to continue creating and pushing towards further artistic expression. Her work has been moving into greater psychological depths with each show that she creates.

El Huso de la Memoria (The Spindle of Memory) – a homage to Pina Bausch – was a more personal retrospective look at her own life; although those wonderful paintings by Oscar Mariné of a grandfather and grandmother, which were used as backdrops on stage, remain vividly in my mind still, they haven’t haunted me in the way that her latest show has. 

Cuando yo era… looks back at the pain and suffering experienced in Spain during the twentieth century. Opening with a a disturbing Overture and then a Prologue, in the following scenes which are set in The Potter’s Workshop and then at the Feria (Fair), we try to make sense of the opening horrors, where two of the three artists are executed.

At the Feria, one feels that not only is the audience an observer but that we are being observed as Mercedes de Córdoba‘s coquettish dancing balances her role of satisfying tourist’s taste for Spanish flamenco kitsch while making us question our own role; Fernando Jiménez, dressed as Charlie Chaplin, complete with suit, bowler hat and red nose, danced in response. The juxtaposition of characters was challenging; the dancing was excellent, but one couldn’t simply sit back and ‘enjoy’ the dancing because the scene set off so many contradictions which set the mind to work at the same time

Eva Yerbabuena’s dancing was sensual, liquid, snake-like, angular, exciting and always captivating. The dancers in her company: Mercedes de Córdoba, Eduardo Guerrero and Fernando Jiménez, also gave unforgettable performances. Eduardo Guerrero and Fernando Jiménezs duo, El Reñiero (The Cock Fight), was a masterpiece of contemporary dance evoking something almost prehistoric in their stylised movements; the flamenco singers Pepe de Pura, Jeromo Segura and Moi de Morón were excellent. Paco Jarana’s guitar playing and compositions were strong and supportive and the percussion was admirably an integral part of the dancer’s footwork.

I went home feeling haunted, disturbed and thinking about the connections that Eva Yerbabuena was making, rerunning the performance through my head to try to make sense of it all. I started to identify with the audiences of the opera Carmen at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1875; they went to be entertained and didn’t expect that the heroine would die on stage. I didn’t expect that from a flamenco show either; and certainly not in the Overture. But Cuando yo era… is a powerful show and Eva Yerbabuena has much more to offer us than flamenco ‘entertainment’.

Cuando yo era has three more shows at Sadler’s Wells on 18 and 19 February 2011; then at the Festival de Jerez, Cádiz on 12 March 2011 at the Teatro Villamarta.

© 2011 Thérèse Wassily Saba