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Galván's playground

Everything is everything for Israel Galván. A circle of wood is a hockey puck and a stage; a microphone stand is a broom and a drumstick; a hand is a flower, a light switch, and then a hand again in his tremendous “Solo” which was recently presented at Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Performance

Israel Galván: “Solo”

Place

Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY, January 23, 2023

Words

Cecilia Whalen

Israel Galván's “Solo.” Photograph by Walter Wlodarczyk

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Galván is considered one of the greatest contemporary flamenco dancers, internationally renowned for his mastery of the art form and even more so for his ruptures with it. In “Solo,” Galván accesses his traditional training with virtuosic footwork while testing the possibilities of his technique by incorporating props, varied upper body movement, and a fluid expression of gender.

Israel Galván's “Solo.” Photograph by Walter Wlodarczyk

He humbly walks onto a stage which is bare except for a microphone, the circle of wood, and a pair of pink rainboots which cling to the wall. Wearing a red apron with white and black shoes, Galván establishes an up-tempo triplet rhythm. Unaccompanied for the entirety of the piece, he accents his stepping with the click of his tongue and the snap of his fingers. He slides his foot across the floor and produces a gentle scratching sound while spiraling his wrists. All of a sudden, he arrests in angular poses, with one arm pointing straight back and side as his head looks away in opposition.

The clarity of Galván's rhythms is immaculate, and his upper body movements can be lyrical as well as cutting. Moving in a circular pattern around stage left, he makes his way to the wood and mounts it like a podium. The wood has a louder, echoey sound which clangs sharply. He hops off of it and later guides it upstage with the help of the microphone stand. Tapping the stand on the wood in coordination with his feet, he creates a syncopated reggaeton beat. Then, positioning the stick at eye-level, shoots the wood away like a cue ball.

The pink boots add another variation to the soundscape. They have a deep, bass sound, particularly when muted by a piece of a rug which Galván has surreptitiously positioned downstage. Earlier, this was the site of a ballet class—Galván held onto a speaker and did his morning pliés in first position, then sautéed around in earnest.

Israel Galván's “Solo.” Photograph by Walter Wlodarczyk

The whole stage is Galván's playground—he even has a sandbox. Galván subtly flips his wrists, turning off the lights, and when the lights come back up, we notice a pile of black sand which blends in to the floor. He stirs his foot in it, creating a whisper then the roaring of waves. He rubs his face in the sand and, lying on his stomach, taps the tips of his toes. Sitting up covered in the black dust, Galván pulls out a lime green shovel and tosses a little sand to the side.

“Solo” is lighthearted, ingenious, and quite funny. Things are not only as they seem, Galván suggests. He spreads his hand, placing it by his head to mimic a carnation, and fluffs his apron. Concluding with a final cadenza, his last percussive sentence is punctuated with a single flick of his front teeth.

Cecilia Whalen


Cecilia Whalen is a writer and dancer from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and holds a bachelor's degree in French. Currently, Cecilia is studying composition at the Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.

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