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Flash Flamenco Journal, 3-7: Compas & Charisma
Sister Sizzles, Grilo Fizzles; Barrio & Co. at the Pub

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- I'm told by those who know Flamenco better than I do that Joaquin Grilo is, at the least, a rising star, a master of compas or rhythm. Indeed, many others in the audience for Grilo's show last Thursday at the Cirque d'Hiver, including my flamenca companion, were charmed by the young man with the electric feet. I preferred the tremors sent up my spine by his singing sister, Carmen Grilo, apparently one of the best-kept secrets in Flamenco, and by the traditional Sevillian dances of his partner, Rosario Toledo.

Carmen Grilo's singing is not for the faint of heart. Indeed, one even gets the feeling she is restraining herself, lest she overwhelm us. Unfortunately, there was not enough of her in what seemed an abbreviated one-act program more interested in extended solos from her brother and Toledo. When Grilo casually tossed his suit jacket to his sister, the gesture almost seemed disrespectful, as if to indicate she was just part of the scenery, there to catch his disgarded props.

As for Grilo's dancing, it was his fluid upper-body experiments -- showing the influence of Antonio Canales -- that interested my companion, who they struck as unusual for Flamenco men. While I saw her point -- the classic male flamenco torso is usually more erect -- for me the fluid spine did not seem so new and, as explored by Grilo, ill-defined. He wasn't doing anything interesting with it. Instead, this Tom Cruise look-a-like seemed to rely more on pure charisma, albeit aided by the significant power of his ever-reverberating feet.

By contrast, Toledo's bata de cola or long gown with train dance -- a retro-trend these days, I'm told -- seemed more experimental, especially as regards subtle changes in the way she twisted her spine, regarded the floor, and spaced her feet. If at the beginning of her extended solo she appeared to be grappling with the train, by the end she had mastered it and the space.

The Grilo show was part of the Paris International Flamenco Festival, produced by Flamenco Production, based in Southern France. The promoter's Geneva festival runs March 9 - 12, opening Thursday with Duquende and Chicuelo.

Noche Flamenca Watch

Back in the United States, few have done so much to maintain the integrity of Flamenco as Martin Santangelo, artistic director of Noche Flamenca, and Soledad Barrio, the company's firey star. As a Flamenco colleague put it to me recently, "Noche is there to show us what the real deal is supposed to be." If you're in New York this week, you can check the real Flamenco deal at Joe's Pub, where Noche Flamenca is performing Wednesday through Sunday, with shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. each night. (Barrio will also be teaching two-hour classes on Saturday and Sunday, at Fazil's.) Look for the siguiriya from Barrio, the solea por bulerias from Alejandro Granados, and tango duets. The dancers will be joined by singers Manuel Gago and Emilio Florido and guitarist Eugenio Iglesias. For more details, please visit the Joe's Pub website.

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