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Rafael and friends: Oxford Playhouse
Rafael Lloyd Iglesias has always had a soft spot for Oxford — he was born here, and returned after growing up in Spain. Over the past few years he has been assembling small groups of dancers, singers and musicians to perform in the kind of intimate, closed-in atmosphere that you would find in a Spanish flamenco club. The quality of his cast is very high, and the man himself is a terrific guitarist, happily now recovered from a serious accident to his hand. He thanks the team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in the progamme.
The show starts in dim light, with only the three dancers on the stage. But instead of dancing, they perform a kind of a cappella drumming number with their tapping feet and clicking fingers, while their arms twist and writhe. Then the musicians are brought on to the stage — two percussionists, a bass player and Rafael himself.
As you might expect, music and dance alternate, more or less, though the dancers could have been given a bit more to do.
Highlights of the show were a couple of beautiful solos from Rafael and a stunning flamenco dance solo from Nani Panos, his feet cracking on the floor like machine-gun fire while he also produced a series of high-speed balletic pirouettes.
There was a touching number by the tall and elegant Rosana Romero, which began with her cradling a baby in what appeared to be a green shroud. It was then revealed as a long-tasselled green shawl, which she manipulated with great skill, whirling it in beautiful shapes around her body, before leaving the stage in the comforting arms of singer Lola Rueda.
We also had a remarkable solo from Rafael Estevez, in which he danced out a long percussive number while seated in a chair, drumming on the table with his hands while his feet rapped on the floor. Between them, dancers and musicians, inter-reacting continuously, created an evening of great atmosphere.