Sibling Rivalry

Dos Hermanos with Israel and Pastora Galván. Presented by the Flamenco Arts Festival. At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, September 30.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

Hermanos doesn’t just mean ‘brothers’; it is gender neutral,” said Flamenco Arts Festival President Alberto Pizano in his introduction to Dos Hermanos, the performance by brother and sister, and flamenco innovators, Israel and Pastora Galván. Israel and Pastora are the children of Jose Galván and Eugenia de los Reyes — both Seville-based legends of Spanish flamenco. The Galván siblings started their career with a legacy to live up to, and they have performed admirably, as evidenced by their virtuosic Flamenco Festival performance and by the audience’s enthusiastic response.

Of the two, Pastora is known as the more traditional flamenco dancer, while Israel is considered the avant-garde innovator. In performance, they both push the edge of traditional form. Pastora’s choreography features the strong footwork often favored by male dancers. Even though Israel and Pastora are seldom on stage together, they frequently mirror each other’s movements in alternating performances of “Soleá,” “Fandango,” and “Alegrías.” In doing so, they blur the lines between traditional male and female roles.

From the moment Pastora graced the stage, she revealed her edge, staring with defiance, and shooting smoky glances at the audience. Most of the time, Pastora danced with typical flamenco seriousness in her countenance, but there were moments during which this veneer parted to reveal a mischievous grin. Israel was more overtly avant-garde, as advertised. His body undulated sinuously as his back arched, and he completed every piece with flourishing hand gestures. Israel was a peacock in black, gesticulating with percussive feet, wearing a smirk as if to say, “Look what flamenco can do.”

The chemistry between musicians and dancers is a hallmark of flamenco; the Galváns’ relationship with their musicians was extraordinary. Pedro Sierra’s guitar-playing filled the hall — electric, fiery, and dazzling. Singers David Lagos and Antonio Zúñiga voiced aching laments. Lagos and Zúñiga took turns partnering Israel and Pastora center stage, interweaving percussive steps and haunting lyrics. The Lobero crowd wouldn’t let up their applause until the performers returned for an encore. Watching Israel and Pastora dance together, the contrast between them evaporated, leaving only two heartbreakingly beautiful flamenco dancers. The all-too-brief encore left this reviewer wishing that Dos Hermanos included more moments when the two danced together. Even so, the final performance of the festival continued the annual tradition of showcasing innovation and tradition in flamenco — stunningly.

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