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Israel Galván

By Sally Sommer

Joyce Theater
New York, NY
September 20–25, 2011
Performance reviewed: Sep. 21
By Sally Sommer


La Edad de Oro begins with the Lagos brothers—David sings, Alfredo plays guitar—seated on metal folding chairs in a square of light. No annoying decor, no narrative about love gone bad: just a guitar, song (canté), and rhythm. This is flamenco puro. Hands stretch into the light, then Israel Galván emerges, dressed in tight black pants and a casual black shirt untucked. These are modern “edge-men,” performing between the radical and the traditional, between male and female. I want them to live above my head. I want to listen to them wailing while I lie in bed and remember how they fuse music and dance into a sonic charge punctuated by rhythms that go faster and cut deeper than words.

 

Galván grafts feminine performance techniques onto the traditional masculine performance traditions he was taught as a seven-year-old from his dancer-parents in Seville. When Galván breaks the rules and invades female territory, he knows what he is doing. Carmen Amaya blatantly invaded masculine territory in the 1920s when she put on pants and pounded out zapateado as hard as any man. The women moved forward but the men have stayed confined. Yes, they might rip off their shirts, scowl like he-devils as they delicately twist their wrists. Yet they remain safely masculine.


Not Galván. He breaks boundaries, swiveling hips and butt, using the sinuous torso and deep second position pliés and lunges, standing in the butt-chest “S” curve. He will even use small hip bounces and exaggerate his port de bras back behind the shoulders. But with tiny adjustment he suddenly turns dangerous and macho. Still, poised on the balls of the feet, pelvis thrust forward like the matador, hands pointing like lances above his head, he is the banderillo ready to run, jump, and stab the bull and bring blood.

 


Galván dances like a hawk on the hunt. His shirt gets so sweat-soaked that it clings to him like wrinkled skin. He slaps it to make rhythms, thwacking it against his back or quivering it with his hand, bunching it up at the waist like the matador grabs his vest. He is outrageous, whether serious or satiric. His leaps and kicks are quick and high, the feet go faster than the ear can hear, he slides, slips, and suddenly stops, sculpted in space. Then his hand comes up behind his head, fingers splayed like the comb that women wear beneath their lace mantillas. Everything dances: his clothes, his shoes, his hands, shirt, arms, and feet. Body parts answer e

ach other. His fingers snap (pistos) softly or like BB pellets chattering about what his feet just did. Rhythms ricochet back and forth between him and the musicians. Galván grunts, gasps, growls to his body. Always, he focuses inward and he never forgets the dance. I think he may forget

us.


In contrast guitarist Alfredo Gatos’ face is calm, impassive, as his fingers skitter across the strings and caress soft tones or thump out driving rhythms. When David sings, his face contorts as he forces his voice up into his head then pushes it down into a tightened throat so he cries in long ornamental notes, stringing out words about love, someone’s heart, death, mother, or “aye-aye-aye-e-e-e.” Canté to Galván: You are a black knife twisted by rhythms that slice my heart.

 

Photos: Israel Galván. By Felix Vazquez. Courtesy Joyce.