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Review 1, 3-10: Waiting for the Solea
La Yerbabuena Casts her Spell
By Rebecca Hummel-Moore
Copyright 2004 Rebecca Hummel-Moore
Sponsor a Flash!
BERKELEY -- Seeing and
hearing flamenco performed by artists as dangerous and exacting
as Eva Yerbabuena and her company transports us away from all that
is mundane and disappointing, redundant and dull. Here is the antidote
to the anesthesia of our lives! The dancer or the singer bravely
reveals his or herself totally to the audience amidst a storm of
rhythm and emotion. The story is in turns cryptic and heartbreakingly
clear. Its origins dwell in distant Andalusian caves and right under
our own breastbone.
La Yerbabuena and company
performed "Eva" February 28 & 29 at Zellerbach Hall to a sold-out
crowd of aficionados, fans and more than a few flamenco dance students.
The program departed from the standard tablao-type set of dances
and songs. A tablao show, for example, typically ends with the compulsory
juerga. This is when American audiences try unsuccessfully to provide
palmas (hand-clapping) to hilarious or light-hearted solos performed
by the singers or guitarists. Rather, "Eva" is a journey into the
cavernous soul of a woman who is enslaved by light, air and demons,
and who in turn enslaves the other characters on stage and, of course,
When Eva Yerbabuena
enters the stage midway through "De la Cava," a dramatic piece choreographed
to the siguirrilas rhythm, she appears almost as a leader of some
kind of cult or as a mistress of torture. The dancers, costumed
in black dresses with a red under-ruffle, and who, until now, have
been pretty wicked themselves, seem to shrink in her presence and
scatter in deference to her lightening footwork. It's as though
she wants to punish them and love them all at once. Yerbabuena's
modern, compositional staging works most effectively in this ensemble
piece, where traditional flamenco and ballet movements tell a story
of the inner workings of a tightly knit group of some kind -- a
family? a cult? The piece ends in silence as parts of the group
move away from the whole in what feels like a painful break-up,
until only Yerbabuena remains staring up at some devil in the sky
that beckons her Solea.
That stillness, with
Yerbabuena looking upward in utter concentration, endures for a
full three or four minutes until she at last explodes into dance
in "Del Puente," her solea and the climax of the performance. What
ensues is an almost painfully suspenseful progression of retention
and explosion toward the inevitable solea por bulerias that will
deliver the dancer to the wings and the audience to some sort of
resolution. Here, La Yerbabuena is at her finest, summoning her
insurmountable technique to service the essence of the character,
twisting her torso in wild, cocky turns, and shaking her hair free
to accentuate her sharp yet graceful arm movements. Her footwork,
when she deems it necessary, is, needless to say, stupefying. For
those of us in the audience who are waiting for that transition
into solea por bulerias to take shape, the answer comes again and
again until we are sure she has peaked and indeed will exit the
stage fulfilled, triumphant, and reborn.
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