When the impeccable Isabel Bayón first worked with flamenco maverick Israel Galván on his 2013 show Lo Real, she dared herself to be “bad” – dancing out of rhythm, breaking the rules. She evidently got a taste for it. Bayón commissioned him to create a new work for her and the result is an offbeat, impishly naughty 90 minutes that is quite unlike anything else at London’s annual Flamenco festival.
The show sets out its stall with a white tinsel Christmas tree, a keyboard player in a white bathrobe, a singer in a white suit and a guitarist – Bayón’s husband, Jesús Torres – kitted out as, well, Jesus Christ. Into this kitsch world, Bayón arrives in a flaming red dress, brandishing a broomstick, her grotesquely platformed feet beating out a pagan pulse.
She pops off her clogs and loosens her long hair, staggering about in stop-motion like a ghost from a Japanese horror film. She wails a parody of a flamenco song while a tassled shawl appears to be pulled out from her innards. Torres recites a litany of her superstitions; Bayón crosses herself, or shoos off bad spirits even as she’s wilfully stomping on glass. The music veers from eerie lullabies to full church-organ portentousness, while odd-couple backing dancers Alicia Márquez (towering, in blue) and Nieves Casablanca (tiny, in pink) bring a surreal, doll-like presence.
For all its transgressions, Dju-Dju works ultimately because it draws on qualities close to flamenco’s heart: wayward rhythms, unresolved dissonances, irrational passions, the summoning of hidden forces. Bayón may not have the madcap, elemental energy of Rocío Molina, for example, but she’s looked into the shadows and is discovering her own juju.