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Rhythms with Soul
Published on Friday, 20 August 2010

4 stars

New Town Theatre (venue website)
5 - 29 Aug (not 17), 3:50pm (5:00pm)
Reviewed by Susannah Radford

Such was the beauty of the opening of this show that a tear rolled down my face.  The curtains opened to reveal the Miguel Vargas Flamenco Dance Theatre en masse, all moving with razor-sharp precision.  It was like the dawn call of flamenco warriors; the light glowed, and the air was filled with supplicated yearning and the low moan of song.

But it felt the caged bird of my heart would break through my chest and soar away from my body when Miguel Vargas began dancing.  Each time he came on stage, he took my breath away; each time he left, I simply wanted more flamenco.  There is a calm efficiency to his dance and movement, elegantly relaxed in his upper body while his feet beat out an earthquake below.  We witness Vargas’ soulful rhythms: there is something so satisfying about watching someone enjoy dancing (and being supremely good at it).

Rhythms with Soul traces the history of flamenco, lending a narrative through-line to the show.  Flamenco began 150 years ago as “an art that was born as a ‘song of sorrow’ of the Andalusian gypsy”. Rhythms with Soul expresses this by following the persecution of one gypsy, emblematic of the joy and sorrow of a people.  In one dance, shrouded women move with black scarves, wringing the scarves as if they themselves are the source of pain.  A cheeky, flirty number sees the company as vibrant as tropical birds of paradise; both exemplify the varied tones of the various flamenco palos.  High production values are visible in the costumes alone.

All the elements of flamenco were there: the tilt of chin and tension of neck, the beautiful curve of back, the holding of hands and energised expressive fingers.  In this age of portable theatre, it is awe-inspiring to see such a large company (16 at my count) fill a stage so decisively.  It’s also enjoyable to watch the company interacting.  The relationship between the singers, musicians and dancers is engaging.

While the narrative is entertaining, the show works best when it’s purely dance.  But this is flamenco to get your teeth into: go discover your soul this Fringe with the Miguel Vargas Flamenco Dance Theatre. 

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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