I went to see Jesus Olmedo perform at the Kino Teatr last month. A graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Madrid, he is now working across the globe and runs a collective in London called Flamenco Soul – live shows combining ‘cante jondo’ (traditional song) with Spanish guitar and flamenco dancing. He rose to fame as Pippa Middleton’s flamenco teacher on the back of this article she wrote for The Telegraph.
First up: Flamenco guitarist Adrian Sola who just sat down and started to play. Following a big bang – technical hitch – he looked up with a shy smile, fiddled a bit and carried on. He has such grace – a beautiful, transcendent sound that grounds you and lays the foundation for the rest of the show. He doesn’t say much but has a fantastic stage presence and can hold his own as a solo performer. I noticed I had started crying. After a couple of sets, he was joined by percussionist Ayoze de Alejandro who worked his way into the sound and they played off each other. I think of flamenco as a solo performance, but it’s about teamwork and collaboration with lots of eye contact, banter and gesturing between performers. It was lovely to feel the connection between the two men.
Jesus is petite and slender with a determined chin and an intense expression – he reminded me of Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. For the first performance, he wore a black and white suit which looked a bit Michael Jackson with a shirt that came undone as he moved. He is an excellent dancer and gave an accomplished performance, but for some reason, he didn’t dominate the room or give me tingles down my spine. I wanted him to push it to the edge. Maybe that would come later? For the second half, he wore a red and black suit which looked sharper and took it in turns to dance with La Kati – an excellent flamenco performer.
“You need to watch Israel Galvan,” my sister whispered into my ear. “I saw him in London. He’s such a force… dominates the stage. Such charisma. Chunky, not too skinny. Great ass, too.”
One of the highlights was an improv session around a wooden table featuring all performers. They started out tapping the table with their fists, building the sound, smiling and laughing and ended with a cracking tabletop performance by Jesus and La Kati. Would it collapse, or would they fall off first? Good tension and the audience got into the swing of it, clapping along in delight. I can imagine this scene being played out in bars across the country as a voice for political protest.
All in, an accomplished show, though I was left wanting more. For me, the standout performance was Sola’s solo guitar playing. Graceful and immersive, he took the audience with him on a journey – the total opposite to the flamenco but the two work well in tandem – he sets the stage for the physical movement and didn’t need any vocal accompaniment.
Looking around the Kino Teatr, St Leonards’ Russian art gallery and performance venue, I felt a bit depressed that most of the audience were over 50. £20 per ticket is a bit steep, but this is live theatre and something you don’t see every day in St Leonards. I prioritised this over other events as I wanted to feel something and thought it would help with the winter blues.
When we got home I watched Israel Galvan and Silvia Pérez Cruz on YouTube. She has a stunning, ethereal voice and he is such a force on stage – simple black outfit, hair swept back in a ponytail. He draws you in with his graceful hand movements. I can see why flamenco is Spain’s premier art form and a powerful tool for protest. Not sure I’d be any good at it with my joints, but I look forward to being energised by more of it.
Jesus Olmedo will be back at the Kino Teatr, St Leonards on May 25, 2019. Booking and info here.