On Thursday, May 6, the Festival de Jerez, one of the world’s foremost flamenco and Spanish dance festivals, launched its 25th edition with the world premiere of dancer Eva Yerbabuena’s production Al igual que tú [The Same as You].
Normally in early May, Jerez would be vibrating with the music and dance coming from the fairgrounds during Jerez’s traditional Feria del Caballo, a massive social gathering that includes equestrian acts and bullfighting, but more importantly food, drink and general merriment. But in 2021, as in 2020, the fairgrounds remain silent with COVID-19 claiming yet again one of the city’s most important social events. But whereas the Feria must wait another year, the festival has managed not to skip 2021.
The 2020 edition of the Festival de Jerez wrapped up just a few days before Spain and international travel shutdown due to the pandemic, and had the festival stuck to its traditional 16-day calendar between February and March, it would have had to cancel this year. But cancelling a major yearly event on an already struggling flamenco and performing arts scene seemed out of the question. Better to be flexible than to just give up. So the festival leadership reduced the number of performances and moved to May, when the City of Jerez would once again allow theatres to reopen.
Despite the changes and the desire to support flamenco artists, the festival conditions are far from ideal. Theatre capacity has been reduced to 50%, and strict travel restrictions mean that most of the international contingent that floods Jerez each year to take the festival master classes and enjoy a slew of performances will likely have to sit this landmark edition out.
To be certain, the 25the edition of the Festival de Jerez will be unlike any that preceded it, not the least of which because this is the first time the festival will ever live stream any of its events. The Massachusetts-based production company Laudable, which, through its live streaming project Third Row, presented such important international musicians as Sweet Honey in the Rock, Stephane Wrembel and Claudia Acuña throughout the pandemic shutdowns, had just wrapped up a flamenco streaming event broadcast live from Granada, Spain in February, when the Jerez Festival announced that it was rescheduling for May 2021.
“Ticket sales from the Granada shows indicated that there is a real hunger among American audiences for authentic flamenco,” explains Third Row Co-Director Kyle Homstead, “so it made perfect sense to partner with the Festival de Jerez.”
Third Row could continue to bring high quality flamenco performances from Spain to their predominantly North American audience, while also allowing international Jerez Fest fans unable to travel to watch at least a small selection of the festival’s shows from home. In other words, if you can’t get to Jerez, Third Row will bring Jerez to you.
Third Row, in collaboration with the Festival de Jerez, will live streaming a total of five performances direct from Jerez, Spain. The streamed shows were curated to showcase the vibrant diversity of the Spanish flamenco scene, from large-scale to intimate performances, from the traditional to the contemporary. Therefore, the streaming selection is a fascinating cross-section of what the festival and flamenco in general have to offer.
The streaming lineup opens on May 9 with the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, a company that is currently under the artistic direction of dancer and choreographer Ursula López. The ballet is celebrating its 25th Anniversary with a show that restages some of the company’s most iconic pieces, including choreographies by Mario Maya, Javier Latorre, José Antonio Ruiz, Cristina Hoyos, Rubén Olmo, Álvaro Paños and Úrsula López. The large corps de ballet and brilliant costuming are a feast for the eyes that lends a more classical line to the flamenco art form.
Another large-scale production with a substantial body of dancers follows on May 13 with the Ángel Rojas Flamenco Project’s Ya no seremos [We Will No Longer Be]. Dancer and choreographer Ángel Rojas, remains backstage for this new production, taking the dramaturgical and directorial helm of a production that navigates an abstract flamenco landscape and in which Rojas creates “in a clear contemporary flamenco style that supersedes barriers and stereotypes.”
On May 15, Eduardo Guerrero presents the world premiere of Debajo de los pies [Under Your Feet], the dancer and choreographer’s third collaboration with artistic director Mateo Feijoo. In his new show, Eduardo includes, for the first time, two other dancers, both ex-soloists from the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía and growing stars in the flamenco scene, Sara Jiménez and Alberto Sellés.
May 16th ushers in another world premiere, this time in the hands of Jerez-native Fernando Jiménez. His is without a doubt the most traditional of the streamed performances, featuring the style of flamenco common to the city’s historic gypsy neighborhoods where Jiménez was raised. Transiciones [Transitions] is only his second full length production, but he’s in excellent company with highly esteemed Pastora Galván, sister of internationally renowned dancer Israel Galván’s, joining him as a guest artist.
And the streamed series ends with yet another world premiere by the flamenco dancer and choreographer from Granada Fuensanta La Moneta. Known for tackling complex and historical subjects in her work, Frente al silenco [In Front of Silence] is based on a poem by Spanish poet Félix Grande “La Cabellera de la Shoá” [Shoah’s Hair] about the atrocities at Auschwitz. La Moneta’s solo piece focuses on the complicit silence that underpins the barbarity human beings are capable of inflicting on one another.
To sample anything from a small taste of authentic, contemporary flamenco to a satisfyingly diverse array of styles and concepts, don’t miss the Festival de Jerez’s live streamed programming, which can be watched live and direct from Spain or on demand whenever works best with your schedule. More information and tickets are available here.