New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls.
Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review Journal, 11-18: Latina Active
Bolerinas from Cuba; Barrio from the Earth
By Anna Arias Rubio
Copyright 2003 Anna Arias Rubio
NEW YORK -- The 16 dancers
and seven musicians of Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, performing at the
New Victory Theater through November 30, present eleven pieces by
Ms. Alfonso, seamlessly woven into one colorful, exciting statement
of their own uniquely Cuban style of dance.
Seen this past Thursday,
the first suite of four pieces included the "Malaguena," "Andalucia,"
"Guadalquivir" and "Gitaneria," to music of the same names
by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona based on Spanish folk rhythms.
The style of dance is very much rooted in "baile Espanol" (Spanish
classical dance), which is basically a technique of ballet developed
in Spain using a posture similar to flamenco, danced (often but
not always) in flamenco shoes and employing the castanets, and with
a strong influence of Escuela Bolera (the bolero school), the court
dances of the 18th century. The all-female dancers wear black ruffled
flamenco skirts with equally ruffled white underskirts, their tops
changing for each section of the suite: from red to pink to blue
with fleur-de-lis type details, very typical of Escuela Bolera,
to fringed tops made of Spanish shawls to the red and white lunares
(polka dots) typical of flamenco.
These beautiful young
women are extremely well trained and rehearsed. Their technique
is impeccable, every willowy arm and hand exactly where it should
be. To execute the sharp turns and low to the ground leaps which
are emblematic of "Baile Espanol" while wearing flamenco shoes is
no easy task, but these young women made it look effortless. Playing
the castanets is also not an easy thing. Each castanet is made of
two pieces of wood or (more recently) fiberglass, held together
by a string which is tightly looped on the thumb. The castanets
are not played by merely clicking the two halves together as many
people think, but by individually tapping the four fingers of the
right hand in very fast sequence, pinky to pointer, to make a rolling
sound, then answering with the left castanet, so each "roll" is
made up of five sounds. These rolls are combined with other clicks
and hitting the castanets together or on various body parts to make
rhythms appropriate to the music. All while dancing! These young
women played the castanets as one, delicately accenting and complimenting
the live on-stage music.
The company continued
from this suite into a more flamenco-influenced set, starting with
"Tango del Tiempo," danced in the red and white polka dot tops and
continuing into "Fuerza y Compas," described in the program as a
"complicated yet simple encounter between the guitar and the heel."
The dancers wore white Cuban-style men's blouses and black flamenco-style
pants in this standout piece. The music sweetly blended flamenco
guitar with a Cuban swing while the women combined archetypical
masculine flamenco poses with crisp, light footwork full of precise
syncopations. Though the rhythm wasn't farrucca, the postures and
the costumes made this piece feel like a Cuban homage to the legendary
flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya.
Up to this point in
the show, the different cultural influences that make this work
Cuban were more evident in the music than the dance. In the piece
for one dancer (either Tais Hernandez or Denise Roman in the performance
I saw; it wasn't clear), "Elogio," danced in a simple sleeveless
ruffled blue dress, the fusion inherent in Ms. Alfonso's choreography
becomes more evident. The piece clearly contains elements of ballet,
Spanish classical dance, flamenco and Afro-Cuban. I have seen many
attempts at fusion in dance that have seemed choppy or where the
dancers are only truly proficient in one of the techniques involved,
but this fusion is so well developed and the dancers of Dance Cuba
are so well trained, as demonstrated here and in later sections,
that none of the techniques combined are ever compromised.
"Ire a Santiago" presents
three women as prim Colonial-era Spanish ladies with ruffles and
hair combs interacting with three Cuban women in white guajira-type
dresses and the slip-on sandals worn in the city of Santiago de
Cuba. The Cuban women wear the sandals on the balls of their feet
in a constant releve and slap the shoes on the ground, sensuously
marking the rhythm with their hips, while the Spanish ladies strike
Escuela Bolera type poses. Though this piece was entertaining, the
stereotypes portrayed made me feel slightly uncomfortable.
For me, "De Novo" and
"De Tierra y Aire" really stood out. In "De Novo," singer Jose Onell
Carbonell sang a flamenco rhythm using the sweet tones of a Cuban
son, the words describing the beauty of the Cuban mixture of Spanish
and African. The dancers wore simple flowered sleeveless dresses
and really got the chance to let loose their flamenco technique.
The musicians' masterful introduction of the Cuban clave into the
12-beat measure of the flamenco bulerias rhythm gave it an even
more thrilling pulse.
"De Tierra y Aire,"
danced in bright red dresses, continues in this same style, adding
even more flavor with a Latin jazz piano montuno for a flashy finale.
Ironically, the combination of Afro-Cuban and flamenco is actually
a big thing in Spain right now, with many Cuban artists such as
Bebo Valdes recording and working with flamenco artists. Let's hope
the dialog continues!
Speaking of flamenco, my editor, in his devotion to fairness and
impartiality in the Dance Insider, has told me that it is better
if I do not write about flamenco companies that contain members
who are friends, but I must force him to read these words and leave
it to him to decide whether it would be ethical to print them. I
must speak out with my opinion of Noche Flamenca, performing Tuesdays
through Sundays through November 30 at the Lucille Lortel Theater.
Under the artistic direction
of Martin Santangelo, Noche Flamenca has been returning to New York
from its home in Madrid almost every year since 1993. In this incarnation
it features three guitarists, Jesus Torres, Paco Cruz and Miguel
Perez Garcia, three singers, Silverio Heredia, Emilio Florido, and
Manuel Gago, and three dancers, Soledad Barrio (Santangelo's wife),
Isabel Bayon and New York's own, Nelida Tirado.
Flamenco is meant to
be a personal, intimate expression of self, and the sparse, cable
and microphone-free Lortel stage places nothing between public and
performer. The dramatic lighting highlighting every line of the
dancers' bodies and the mottled dark wall behind the performers
evokes John Singer Sargent's famous painting "Jaleo," itself an
evocation of a 19th century Madrid tablao.
Flamenco began with
the singing; all flamencos will tell you that this is the most important
part of Flamenco. The "letra"(lyrics) are what inspires the dancer,
and the tones of the Flamenco voice are what determine the tones
played on the guitar for each "palo"(Flamenco rhythm). These singers
are exceptional, not only in voice but also in their choice of letras.
The depth of emotion in their voices fills you.
The artists of the cast
each have a unique individual style complimenting each other perfectly.
Isabel Bayon is a petite, delicate woman, whose coquettish and playful
demeanor in the palo of "Jaleos" belies the ferocious virtuosity
of her dancing. The complexity of her use of compas (rhythm) is
hidden by her relaxed sensual manner. She smiles and raises a slender
shoulder and then executes an amazing "displante"(outburst) of complicated
A similar description
can be made of Bayon's husband Jesus Torres's guitar playing. His
virtuosity and speed seem like an afterthought to his hauntingly
beautiful compositions. Her dancing is made for his music.
Guitarist Paco Cruz
played a solo of "bulerias," teasing the compas in a modern, exciting
way. Miguel Perez rounded out the trio with a more traditional style.
Tirado is a voluptuous
earthy dancer. She doesn't have any large solos in this show, but
even with the short time she is on stage one can see why she is
the only American flamenco dancer good enough to dance with major
Flamenco companies from Spain. I hope we see more of her soon.
Which brings us to Soledad
Barrio. In this show she gives us two solos, her "Solea" and "Siguiriya."
Many people have said good Flamenco is about exposing yourself --
that the depth of expression is more important than technique. In
Barrio you see both. Her technique is flawless, her feet faster
than any woman, her turns and arms and arched back, perfection.
Every time she walks out on the stage she gives 100 percent of herself.
She seems to channel the struggle of all women through her tiny
perfectly chiseled body and allows us to watch as she exorcises
the pain and suffering. No tricks, no artifice, no faking, this
Go back to Flash Reviews