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Flash Review 1, 7-14: Drenched by Duende
Noche Flamenca Takes the Night

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 Peggy H. Cheng

It was a highly-charged evening at the Connelly Theater on E. 4th Street last night as the audience awaited "Noche Flamenca 2000." The full-capacity house greeted the company of Noche Flamenca (founded in Madrid in 1993 by Martin Santangelo and his wife and stand-out performer Soledad Barrio) with an immediate surge of warmth and enthusiasm. It was not difficult to be swept along in the rhythms and physical drama that seems to be the live essence of flamenco movement.

The company is united by an awe-inspiring display of amazing footwork and mesmerizing focus. The fierceness and power of the dancers and the dances followed a familiar rhythm: bursts and flurries like small storms, eventually building to the climactic tidal wave or volcanic explosion, emotionally moving in its sheer immensity of power and concentration, both mental and physical. One of the ensemble pieces, "La Plaza," passes the rhythm from performer to performer in a surprisingly diverse series of short solos, including singers and musicians. A particularly interesting performance came from the percussionist, Jose Antonio Galicia, whose experience in jazz and other musical forms has perhaps influenced his use of percussion instruments from all over the world.

Each performer also shines through with his or her individuality: Bruno Argenta with his solo "Farruca" excelled at sliding into smooth classical lines punctuated by nailing, biting feet which incited the first "Bravos" of the evening; Noe Barroso was the young male lover of the evening, raw and with a torso strength which drew his elbows and wrists in close while his feet flew; in a trio with Barroso were Eva Marin, a tall, elegant woman with a wonderful, haughty stance, and Alejandra Ramirez, a petite, fiery dancer; Ana Romero performed the "Alegrias" with a delightful sense of spontaneity, her relationship to the musicians and singers especially sensitive.

Soledad Barrio is the acknowledged star of the ensemble, and in her "Solea," which was the culmination of the evening's program, she brought the audience to its feet and left me transported and transfixed. It was not technical virtuosity alone which took me along for the ride, but Barrio's ability to burn her image into the space and shake the dust right out of the stage and up into the rafters. At one point, as she launched into a volley of footwork she seemed to hang in the air by the force of speed, her verticality reminding me of a jackhammer hitting deep into the ground; at another moment my eyes flew to her hand, striking into the air and held there even as her feet flew across the floor; and in a happy accident a single red rose flew off her head and landed center stage as she spun on a dime, and it remained in the center of our vision for the rest of the evening, but never did we mistake it for the force of flamenco which had overtaken the stage. It all went back to the movement, musical and physical, of all the senses, escorting me, and those around me, into the storm and back out again fully soaked but satisfied.

Noche Flamenca continues at the Connelly Theater through August 13, with showings Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 5 PM. For more info, call 212-279-4200.

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