Eva YerbabuenaEva Yerbabuena’s flamenco is the real thing: pure, fierce dance with only music as adornment. The show begins in darkness, followed by a wonderful dramatic moment as a hanging lamp is switched on to reveal Yerbabuena on a stool in a striking black flamenco dress.

The musicians accompanying Yerbabuena included three male singers, two guitarists and a percussionist. There is an attempt to have the vocalists interact with Yerbabuena, and while this had the potential to be visually and dramatically effective, the men didn’t quite pull it off: their talent was in their powerful voices and they didn’t seem physically comfortable moving around the stage. Many of their gestures were repetitive, particularly in contrast to Yerbabuena’s highly structured movement. The singers were most effective when they sat towards the back of the stage with the other musicians.

In her first piece, Yerbabuena’s dancing was sharp, ferocious and even violent at times. Deeply connected to the music, the dance ranged from sharp gestures of the head to an intense, tightly-controlled ‘tap dance’ in which only her legs and feet appeared to move, the rest of her body seeming to remain stationary.

Yerbabuena performed four dances, each one in a different dress. In the second one she wore an extravagant white and purple outfit that had a life of its own, although the details of her body’s movements were not as visible as before. This dance was less intense than the first, a little freer and softer. But flamenco is not a free dance form, and everything about Yerbabuena’s show is contained and controlled, often producing a sense of frustrated rage or passion.

I would have liked the printed program to provide a little more information on both the dance and the music; the names of the pieces were all in Spanish, and therefore meaningless to those who don’t speak the language. There were moments when I really wanted to know what the singers were singing about, and why Yerbabuena was reacting to them in a certain way, and it was frustrating to feel this language barrier between audience and performer.

Some explanation of the dance form and the music would have enhanced this performance experience, but it was nevertheless a powerful show and Eva Yerbabuena is a fascinating performer to watch. Her intensity and total commitment to each movement is extraordinarily compelling and I had only to watch and listen to the opening night audience to know that she has a very enthusiastic following in Australia.

Eva Yerbabuena

Venue: Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall, Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW
Dates: 27 - 30 Aug 2009
Tickets: $69 - $109
Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com | 02 9250 7111