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Flash Review 3, 6-10: Balanching Act
Noche Flamenca Fuses Power with Grace to Mine Duende

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2002 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- The dancers of Noche Flamenca strike a perfect balance of power and grace. Ruffled skirts flare, while underneath, strong legs pound out extremely complex rhythms. One of flamenco's true treasures, the company presented an exciting and informative evening at the New Victory Theater last night. Thoughtful program notes and a broad repertoire gave the audience a thorough look at the art of flamenco, without turning the performance into a lecture demonstration. At the same time, flamenco is such a direct, emotional art that one hardly needs background information to understand the heart-wrenching wail of the cante or the infectious rhythm of the palmas. That such a moving communication occurred is testament to the incredible intensity of the cast and the performers' utter commitment to what they were doing.

Bruno Argenta performed one of the most impressive dances on the program, "Farruca." Argenta began slowly, prowling the stage like a tiger preparing to pounce. His arms circled his head and carved luxurious shapes in the space around him, as if he were drawing energy from the air. The guitarists incited him to execute a fast rhythmic sequence, which he completed in a perfect balance on one leg. The choreography was replete with such beautiful juxtapositions of movement and stillness. Argenta ended a series of five turns by dropping onto one knee, then jumping over to the other. He finished a double turn in the air straight as an arrow, on the balls of his feet, and gave his vest a stylish flick. His heels moved so fast they seemed to blur together, until he froze in a defiant pose. Best of all, each time he stopped, indicating it was over and that he couldn't possibly go on, he did. Delightfully, Argenta came to a supposed ending four or five times, but then kept thrilling the audience with more taps and more turns.

Noche Flamenca co-founder Soledad Barrio delivered an equally engaging solo. Unlike Argenta's slow build, Barrio began hers at a fevered pitch, her heels pounding the floor like a drum roll. The singers and guitarists entered later and accompanied her exploration of melancholy and frustration. About halfway through, she stopped in a downstage spotlight, making a stark picture in her black dress and shawl. Her outstretched hands curled like sensitive antennae, absorbing the angst of the music and pushing it down beneath her proud head, defiant shoulders, and arched back. The angst became a bottled rage that eventually exploded through her feet, bringing thunderous applause and spontaneous cries of "Ole!" from the audience.

Amplifying the passion throughout the evening were singers Antonio Vizarraga and Manuel Gago and guitarists Miguel Perez Garcia and Jesus Torres.

Noche Flamenca runs through Sunday. For more information, please visit the New Victory's web site.

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