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Flash Review 2, 7-31:
Flamenco at Close Range
Manolete Stalks Jackie Gleason
By Lauren A. Feldman
Cpoyright 2000 Lauren A. Feldman
MIAMI -- I entered a
full house at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach on Saturday
night to see Manolete with La Rosa Flamenco Theatre, not knowing
if the intimacy and intensity of flamenco could be conveyed in such
a huge venue. I had only seen live flamenco once before, in a Tablao,
a traditional flamenco club in Madrid. Now I was seated in the third
row, much to my surprise, so at least I would get a superficial
feeling of closeness to the dancers. Unfortunately, as I would soon
realize, I could not see their feet, unless I stretched my neck
to unfathomable lengths.
The dancers, accompanied
by singer Pepe Jimenez and guitarist Pepe Maya (Manolete's nephew),
opened with an Alegrias originating in the port city of Cadiz. This
was a joyous dance, alternating between trios and solos by the dancers.
This was an appropriate opener, accompanied by the guitar and the
vocalist's ecstatic shouts of joy.
The Solea, known as the
mother of all Flamenco songs and dances, as was explained in the
program, was a departure from the happy, lively rhythms and major
chords of the first piece. In this duet, choreographed by Manolete,
and danced by himself and Ilisa Rosal (founder of La Rosa Flamenco
Theatre), the couple attempted to communicate their loneliness and
sad yearnings with the alternatingly quiet and intense punctuation
of their steps. They followed parallel lines and intersecting diagonals
with single turns, perhaps signifying their own confusion in attempting
to communicate their mutual feelings of love, yet ultimate despair.
Monolete showed his fortitude
and artistry in the Farruca, a traditional male dance from Galicia.
Intense and contemplative, Manolete appeared to be walking the tightrope
of his mind while he traced the initial steps of this dance. The
rhythm of this piece was strong and often hocket-like, with Manolete
and his guitarist nephew alternating accents. The audience fiercely
applauded this dance of varying tempos and intensities, shouting
"Que viva Espana!" Especially expressive were Manolete's shoulder
movements and his long, proud strides.
Next I was to witness
a melancholy melody accompanied by the most intriguing polyrhythm
I have heard. The four women in the opening of Taranto, based on
Mineras, or Miners' songs, elicited the pain inspired by the harsh
life of the miners in Andalusia. The spatial qualities of this piece
were also intriguing; instead of traditional flat or diagonal formations,
the dancers wove in and out of each other's paths, only to finally
become one mass of beating feat, quivering hips, and blossoming
hands. The manner in which these four dancers maintained their own
rhythms, while gradually joining the rhythm and melody of the guitar
and voice, was spectacular. The program noted a change to a tango
rhythm, but I detected an island sound within this dance. As they
slowed down, one could hear the performers' feet slide across the
floor like a single tear tracing a path down a face. Unexpectedly,
the rhythm then gained speed, almost like a heart gone mad. Finally
they had some fun, swinging their hips, and then the pace once again
cooled down as they struttted off the stage.
The Martinette was a
rhythm that started with blacksmiths of Andalusia hitting their
hammers on their anvils and singing about the sufferings of life.
The Seguiriyas added guitar to the beat of the Martinete, yet retained
the "pulsing beat and haunting lament of its roots," according to
the program notes. Not only was the rhythm itself awesome in the
visceral reactions it caused, but Pepe Jimenez evoked the pain of
life, and almost seemed like a Muslim chanter calling the faithful
to prayer. (Perhaps this style of singing calls back to the time
when the Moors controlled southern Spain.) The blood red background
and the red dresses of the first three dancers, coupled with the
syncopated rhythm, evoked the beating of the tired heart of a blacksmith.
This heart then gained some energy as the dancers gestured towards
their hips, perhaps paying homage to the enigma of life. Ilisa Rosal's
solo was especially enticing. The repeated "envelope" gesture of
her leg, combined with the syncopation of her feet versus the thumping
of the body of the guitar kept my eyes glued to Rosal's every expressive
movement. Her use of the scarf was saturated with meaning, such
as when she, as one burdened, slung the fabric over her back, only
to continue her dance of love and toil.
Alegrias concluded the evening's performance. In this piece, augmented
by the use of a plain wooden chair, Manolete stalked the stage like
a lion. His accents of rhythm, or pellizco, were feline in nature,
but highly masculine in their manifestation. In the piece one could
see the partnership between the guitarist, Pepe Maya, and the dancer,
as Manolete teased the audience by holding a pose a nanosecond longer
than one would expect, and then suddenly releasing his hold into
a cascade of tapping while Maya did the same with his guitar. In
percussive dance, such as flamenco, perhaps more than in any other
dance form, the body becomes an instrument of melody and rhythm,
as Manolete proved to his fans tonight.
Lauren A. Feldman is
a recent graduate of Columbia University and Barnard College.
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