Nordic Flamenco: Northern Pulse

Show dedicated to the memory of Agustín de Cantarote 23.12.1965 – 3.2.2021.

Last weekend the (home)audience had the pleasure of attending the newest performance of the Helsinki-based Imperfecto Collective (lead by Elina Robinson), a performance called Nordic Flamenco: Northern Pulse, which was live streamed directly from Kanneltalo. This second Nordic Flamenco club featured Elina Robinson (dance), Anne Riikola-Sarkkila (dance), Anna Murtola (song), Rodrigo Gonzalez (guitar), Ricardo Padilla (percussions), Lotta-Maria Pitkänen (violin), Laura Rintamäki (palmas) and Christian Robinson (video art). As events and culture have been scarce in these times of Covid-19, it was a small miracle to get this piece on stage, even as a live stream performance and it was a delight to get to experience it through this medium.

Bailaoras Elina Robinson and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila with musicians Rodrigo Gonzalez, Anna Murtola and Laura Rintamäki in the background. Photo by Matti Sten.

The theme of the performance, ”Northern Pulse”, was strongly emphasized by Christian Robinson’s masterful video design and motion graphics throughout the performance. The video art, drawing from mythology and seasons changing, gave depth to the performance, not taking center stage from the performers on stage but adding to the mood and deepening the intensity, which reached us all the way at home. The opening number, a rhythmical serrana with night sky imagery beautifully interpreted by the whole team of performers, created a pulse that followed throughout the whole performance. The voice of Anna Murtola suited Juan Meneses’s serrana wonderfully, and the guitar of Rodrigo Gonzalez, violin of Lotta-Maria Pitkänen and percussions of Ricardo Padilla strengthened the magic. Together with Laura Rintamäki’s palmas, the musicians gave a perfect backdrop for Elina Robinson’s and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila’s interpretation of the choreography with strong footwork as well as fluid marcajes.

Serrana by Elina Robinson and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Photo by Matti Sten.

After the magical serrana, the mood changed to a lush green imagery and freshness of alegrias, an instrumental piece that recalled early summer nights filled with light. This fresh, airy piece gave the performers and audience alike room to breathe before yet another mood change to a somber, but in the end hopeful, tarantos performed by bailaora Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Known for her clean lines and ability to put her soul into every performance, Riikola-Sarkkila impressed me most with her ability to break the classical lines and, furthermore, to do it, as always, elegantly without the positions seeming distorted or unappealing. This factor makes Riikola-Sarkkila’s style quintessentially her own, and this aspect was strongly present in her tarantos solo, as well.

Tarantos by Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Photo by Matti Sten.

After Riikola-Sarkkila’s piece, yet another season change, and mood change, came with the haunting solo of cantaora Anna Murtola. The solo, featuring the singer center stage, and combining flamenco form nana (Spanish for lullaby) with traditional Finnish lullabies was simply stunning. Together with Pitkänen’s violin, Gonzalez’s guitar and Robinson’s wintery, earthy videos, the performance was at the same time delicately fragile and heart wrenchingly powerful. This beautiful piece, jointly composed by Anna Murtola and her life partner Ahmed Ali Hussein, caused strong emotions at least in this viewer bringing tears to my eyes, and left a desire to hear more.

Cantaora Anna Murtola with Ricardo Padilla, Lotta-Maria Pitkänen and Rodrigo Gonzalez accompanying. Background images by Christian Robinson. Photo by Matti Sten.

Just as the viewer thought that it could not get any better, Murtola’s nana transitioned beautifully to soleá by the singer and the multi-talented guitarist Rodrigo Gonzalez for Elina Robinson’s solo. What a jackpot and what a guitarist! Known for her magnetic stage presence and strong footwork, Elina Robinson brought to the stage a profound soleá accompanied perfectly by the band and the moonlit background created by Christian Robinson. The footwork was as strong and precise as ever, but there was a special air and peace both in the choreography and the performance. The piece had a magical depth that comes with complete confidence in oneself and perfect trust in the team. I want to give a special mention here for the grounding palmas of Laura Rintamäki that created the perfect support for the dancer.

Soleá by Anna Murtola and Elina Robinson. Photo by Matti Sten.

Another mood change followed, lightening the mood after these powerful numbers, with Lotta-Maria Pitkänen and Ricardo Padilla playing a delightful duo of polska center stage. The freshness of the violin of Pitkänen and multi-talented Padilla’s rendition with the charango set a joyful scene before the final piece of the show, an energetic tangos that brought the whole group back to stage, including both dancers. Set against a golden, flowery background, this was again a wonderful piece from the whole group and especially the bailaoras, both strong and confident in this palo full of down-to-earth femininity. This was the perfect ending with a strong pulse, which brought the performance to a full circle.

Tangos by Elina Robinson and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Photo by Matti Sten.

I must applaud the performers for the heart and tenacity with which they brought this performance to stage, even if it was as a live stream. I admire the dedication, talent, and mutual trust in these trying times. I also thank Apogee, responsible for the live stream, for the skillful execution. It is true that no live stream can replace the hum of the shared experience and the joy of being present and experiencing the performance with all senses as an entity, but for that moment we must wait. The show is scheduled for a live performance next Spring. I have my ticket; will you get yours?

And for those that missed the live stream, the video recording can be seen at https://www.helsinkikanava.fi/player/event/view?eventId=91560321 until the 5th of April. I recommend all to go watch it.


All pictures by Matti Sten in this post are published with the permission of the Imperfecto collective and the photographer.

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