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Flash Review 1, 3-20: Sevilla in San Francisco
Yaelisa Brings Spain to the Mission

By Rebecca Hummel-Moore
Copyright 2000 Rebecca Hummel-Moore

SAN FRANCISCO--Glowing red candles on black tables surround the stage, people munch olives, bread and hot peppers, Spaniards yell out the Jaleo that accompanies Flamenco ("ole!" "Asa" "Vamos!"); are we in Sevilla, Grenada? Actually, this delightful scene took place Sunday night at the unlikely location of ODC, a haven for modern dance in San Francisco's gritty Mission District.

Last night was the second sold-out date for Yaelisa and her company, Caminos Flamencos. Yaelisa has been a fixture in the West Coast Flamenco scene for some time now. Among Flamenco students she has gained a cultish status and as a performer her warm, percussive style, that blends the classical and the modern, has thrilled audiences and has guaranteed sell-out crowds every time she has performed.

Sunday's lineup of dancers and musicians included students and professionals alike, as Yaelisa and ODC have agreed to showcase local aficionados as well as international heavy hitters.

Flamenco guitarist Jason Macguire and Tabla player Sudhi Rajagopal performed a smoking duet early in the evening which left the audience flushed and excited for more of this tight, passionate music. Singer Kati Mejia's throaty, soulful voice threaded gorgeously throughout the first Alegrias of the evening, accompanied by Macguire on guitar and danced by Beverly Christie. In this dance, Christie, who is a seamless and graceful dancer, managed to capture both the haughtiness and innocence Flamenco inspires.

The second act opened with an improvised rhythmical "conversation" between Yaelisa and Macguire. The audience was spellbound as the two layered the sound of impeccable footwork on top of the thumping groove line of the classic Flamenco rhythm box in a percussive duet that thrilled the crowd.

A highlight of the program was Yaelisa's Alegrias, performed by the astounding Liza Thomson. Thomson is a gorgeous dancer who seems to have been born to dance Flamenco, though she has only been at it some seven years. With dazzling technique and an incredibly emotive stage presence, Thomson dances as though she has been rescued by Flamenco music and entrusted to carry on a hundred-year-old tradition.

Another exquisite dance was Yaelisa's final solo of the evening, a dark and introspective Solea. Yaelisa's footwork was almost tender in this dance, though there was certainly no lack of power in it, and her incredibly graceful and expressive hands told the sad tale of loneliness that a Solea always ends up telling.

Cafe Flamenco at ODC will certainly bring out all those who love Flamenco to its upcoming dates of April 16, May 21 and June 18. The fact that Flamenco finds itself in a venue usually reserved for cutting-edge, avant garde dance may mean that some people who have never seen and heard Flamenco will be turned on to its mystery, virtuosity and passionate expression. It doesn't get better than Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos.

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