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A dancer, a diva and an Opera

Rafael Amargo, Mayada Hinnawei and a pair of European artists at the Opera Gallery are part of this week's cultural calendar.
Lita Cabellut's intense work is on display at the Opera Gallery.
Lita Cabellut's intense work is on display at the Opera Gallery.

Rafael Amargo is a flamenco dancer with one foot in the contemporary camp, if that isn't too muddled an image this early in the week. He runs his own company and vacuums up awards like other dancers do appetite suppressants. He seems to have turned up on nearly every Spanish TV show there is, playing himself. Naturally he has the sort of famished, equine look and ropes of muscle that endear, one observes, performers of his sort to impressionable women. A sort of glum resentment wells up whenever I catch sight of his press shots.

Still, the man can dance, as you may judge for yourself tonight and tomorrow when he, his musicians and his troupe of fellow dancers assail the Emirates Palace with a combination of traditional flamenco and modern dance. Flamenco, at the best of times, tends to arouse a suspicious side to my character. Any art form that makes a virtue of passion and sex appeal at the expense of chilly irony and free-floating embarrassment is fated to sit badly in my drizzling English soul. That's no argument against it, of course. People take pleasure in all sorts of bizarre things - the smiles of infants, whiskers on kittens and so forth - and Adach has a duty to these oddballs too. That said, if you happen to spot a slope-shouldered, knavish fellow in the audience, hissing and squirming over a page of doodles and a primer on Laban notation - wish me luck. I'll need it.

More obvious (to me, at any rate) is the appeal of Mayada al Hinnawei, the Syrian diva who plays the Emirates Palace on Thursday. She's an Arab singer of the old school: enormous band, enormous hair and pipes that could crack the heart of a giant. There are only so many real stars out there and you must never miss a chance to fizzle in their wattage, so to speak.

Finally, a pair of European artists are coming to the Opera gallery this week. The Barcelona-born Lita Cabellut has one of those perfect potted biographies that can threaten to overshadow the work. Born into, as the gallery blurb describes it, a "Gypsy environment", she lived rough until she hit 13, when she was adopted. She fell in love with art, visiting museums, learning to paint and holding her first exhibition at 17, before studying at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Her work is as tormented and intense as you'd imagine: spooked and dauby portraits that fall somewhere between Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud on the macabre-ometer. They would work better in the hall than in the guest bedroom, I suppose I'm saying. At the same time there's a collection from Jean-Pierre Roc Roussey, a Parisian. He paints what look like Roman murals seen by Marc Chagall. Plump, togaed figures act out mythological scenes while dissolving into a pointillist fog. It's attractive stuff. Still, it goes rather against the definite spirit of my favourite Roman, Cato the Elder. Among many endearing habits, he made a practice of ending his every speech to the Senate, regardless of subject, with the words: "Carthago delenda est!" ("Carthage must be destroyed!") And Carthage was destroyed, so we know it works. That's why Cultural Calendar is thinking of instituting a similar policy here. Every week, until our demands are met or our editors ask us to put a sock in it, the cry shall go up: give us Gaga! Lady Gaga for 2010.

Published: January 24, 2010 04:00 AM

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