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Review 1, 2-11: Radiant Heat
Noche Flamenca Burns the Night at Joe's Pub
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- The spirit
of Flamenco burst to vivid life this past weekend at Joe's Pub!
On the pub's postage-stamp stage, artistic director Martin Santangelo
concocted a sizzling show with two guitars, two voices, and two
pairs of flaming feet that enraptured audiences twice a night with
their impassioned Iberian soul.
The sensational small-scale
performance in the dimly lit, crowded pub, while people are enjoying
(pricey but tasty) food and drink, feels truer in atmosphere to
the roots of the ancient Spanish form of music and dance than the
splashy spectacles seen at City Center the previous weekend.
Dancers Alejandro Granadas
and Soledad Barrio open with tangos: dancing side by side with rapid-fire
unison footwork or circling each other like pugilists in the ring,
snaking arms overhead. Both mature dancers -- worldly wise and seasoned
-- embody the pain and pride of the Spanish spirit with effortless
technique, vibrant passion, and emotional interplay that has the
ring of truth.
Young pony-tailed Jesus
Torres plays a soulful melody on his guitar. His sound is crisp
and mellow, and his steely strong fingers fly over the strings,
embellishing the simple tune copiously with elaborate arpeggios
and ornamentation that augment its emotional resonance. At times
it's hard to believe that a single instrumentalist can produce such
a cascade of luscious sound by himself. Torres plays with astonishing
technique and deep feeling.
In his solo, Granadas
faces the musicians as much as he does the audience as he dances.
Although his silhouette isn't svelte, he moves with catlike delicacy,
then explodes into fierce, highly articulated footwork. Gathering
his jacket hem up around his waist, he stalks the stage like a wildcat
on the prowl -- or jilted lover seeking revenge. Then he'll pause,
hands high, clapping soundlessly, teasing us, slowing down to make
us think he's done, when in fact he's just refueling for another
explosion. As we burst into an appreciative round of applause he
erupts again into blistering motion.
Singers Antonio Vizarraga
and Emilio Florido get to display their vocal acrobatics in a cappella
arias. Wailing arpeggios in minor modes change textures and dynamics
within a single, long breath. Younger Florido's voice is more nasal
and melancholy, while the elder Vizarraga's is fuller and more piercing.
The two alternate solos then blend perfectly. Their "Cante" introduces
the highlight of the evening, Barrio's solo dance.
In an elegant, muted
burgundy dress, wrapped with a matching fringed shawl, hair swept
back in a twist, Barrio winds her hands and fingers sinuously and
twines her arms actually behind her head -- her chest is arched
so far forward. She brushes close around the men, simultaneously
challenging and flirting with them. Then, between machine-gun barrages
of intricate foot-stamping patterns she twists herself into arching
twirls. The speed and clarity of her footwork dazzle, and her fury
is more contained than that of her partner. Beneath her rather brusque,
smoldering affect one senses a tender vulnerability that gives dimension
to her passion.
"Noche" is a troupe
of veteran pros; they know their stuff and deliver it with power
and passion that'll char your filet mignon. In the finale, the singers
show off their fancy footwork, too, and the audience screams.
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