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Dance Review: Los Vivancos: Aternum (The Coliseum, London)

Viva Espana! Can I be one of the seven brides? Los Vivancos in action. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Viva Espana! Can I be one of the seven brides? Los Vivancos in action. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Rating: ****

This band of seven Spanish Flamenco-dancing brothers came to London for one night only, and boy, did they leave their mark. With Cirque du Solei writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca behind the produciation and composer Frenando Velãzquez, who worked on the music for the film The Impossible, providing a score recorded by the Synfonic Orchestra of Budapest, this was never going to be a dull show.

Right from the start, drama (and volume) is pumped into the huge space that is The Coliseum and the audience are pelted with grand theatrics, wowing patrons at every given opportunity. Lavish costumes, dizzying lights, pyrotechnics, gob-smacking feats of physical ability, sweaty muscular half-naked male bodies: the production is literally stupefying in that you’re knocked into a showboating induced coma of sex appeal and glamour from start to finish.

Even though the show has more production values than Donatella Versace’s face, at the heart of the entire show is some astounding dance. As ridiculously handsome and physically resplendent as they are, Los Vivancos’ dancing abilities match their Adonis looks, making them a marvel to watch. The choreography accelerates quickly from something quite simple into a maelstrom of stomping, clapping, and back-flipping. Their timing and energy are both impeccable. They criss-cross, fan, dance in formation, and even blindfolded, as if it were as natural as breathing. Even if they weren’t all related, such a slick troupe of dancers is impressive enough as it is.

But most intriguingly is that, whilst it would have been incredibly easy to hide behind the overkill of production, the brothers’ interdisciplinary training in dance, music, and performance are deployed to add a wild variety and dynamism to the show which works fantastically well. You’ve got everything from fusing Flamenco with ballet, modern jazz, and martial arts. You’ve even have some of the brothers performing on instruments, including a mad Steampunk rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee on an electric cello, flute, and snare box. This is just as well, as a full 80 minutes of pure traditional Flamenco would loose its glimmer and appeal quickly, no matter how pretty the boys are.

However, the impressive production is actually the only thing that faults the show. The narratives of each sequence are sometimes baffling. At one point Mozart turns into Flashdance’s Alex Owen. There are also enough sinister medieval religious iconography and hooded monks to warrant an Enigma comeback tour. And then some things just happen with no rhyme or reasons whatsoever.

Also, the flitting from one attempt to bedazzle the audience to the other doesn’t always work. Not to mention such a smorgasbord of styles and gimmicks is a tiring. For example, the moment when the brothers got their castanets out (steady on) and attempted some manner of slick post-modern light show didn’t impress as much as the rest. When the stage lights came back on, their prowess with the castanets was simply mind-blowing and needed not the literal flashiness of what came before it.

Furthermore, the indecision on what parts of the music should be performed live or not is a little irksome. On stage you end up with an all female band that you’re not sure if they’re either miming, playing, or periodically doing a bit of both. Thankfully, the brothers’ musical performances, though amped up to eleven, are all genuine, which just adds to how impressive they are.

Essentially, such ostentatious production of the show is unnecessary as what makes Los Vivancos fantastic is the actual talent and flair of the brothers seven; there’s really not much need to dress them up (and down) so much. A slightly less intense approach would have lost nothing in its impact and spectacle. But it’s not like I’m unappreciative, however. This is a show that knows it’s ridiculous and completely over the top, but couldn’t care less and does a fantastic job at being ridiculous and completely over the top. Blasting into London like Vegas was going out of fashion, it’s an amazing and heart-pounding spectacular, the kind of which you don’t see much of these days. It might not be subtle or outstanding theatre, but it’s one hot as hell night out.

Los Vivancos: Aternum played at The Coliseum, London, WC2N 4ES, on 9 July 2013. To find out more about the group visit www.losvivancos.com.