Flamenco Vivo offers a pulsating Navidad

Christmas arrived early at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center this past weekend. That’s where Flam

Christmas arrived early at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center this past weekend. That’s where Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana celebrated Navidad in a one-act party, complete with tree, that Santana said is meant to reveal a lighter side of flamenco.

That’s hard to see as Santana’s ensemble of crack dancers, singers and musicians take their line of work seriously. And even in a choreographed scenario, where the crew breezily exchange kisses and wrapped gifts, their song and dance quickly and sharply refocuses them on the rhythms.

It’s the rhythm

The rhythm is its raison d’être. To really appreciate Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, or any flamenco, one must appreciate the rhythms. The dance is a servant to the rhythms. Flamenco is not so much a visual art as an aural one. Without a love for the sound hammered out by the dancers’ soles and heels, the sensation of flamenco is lost. And when the seven dancers of Flamenco Vivo power up the beat together, the sound is staggering. In the first act, “Navidad Flamenco,” the dancers march toward the audience in formation, striking the floor with their feet like an army marching to battle. It’s hard, loud, determined and predatory. But as they retreat backwards and their lines and sounds dissolve, the tension lifts. The sensations a thundering rhythm can create are mind-boggling.

The second act opened with “Jaleos,” another ensemble piece, created by company dancer and choreographer Antonio Hidalgo. Set to a 12-beat rhythm, the piece elicits flamenco’s mystery and dynamics. The dancers appear in shadows. But as in the first act, they emerge into the light, en masse, as a tumultuous band of revelers.

While dancing as a synchronized symphony is dramatic, flamenco is also about exerting one’s individuality. And it’s great to see the dancers break from the pack as they did in other parts of the program. Estefania Ramirez danced “Guajiras,” a dance with flamenco’s traditional “bata de cola” or long-tailed dress. Ramirez kicks her skirt and flicks open her fan with one motion. And then her feet start to sting the floor. Her dance is syncopated barbs, darting and unapologetic.

Fermin Calvo de Mora and Fanny Ara dance “Tientos,” a love duet. As they embrace and sway, tenderness emerges. But as in most flamenco duets, the love seems to stand on rocky soil. That’s evident in the thorny footwork that follows.

Heart stopper

Hildalgo, the company’s most accomplished dancer, stops hearts in “Solea por Bulerias.” He dances with a confidence and a commitment to the music that is total. And in return, everyone who watches is deeply absorbed in his seeming plight of solitude.

Flamenco Vivo, performing before a standing-room-only crowd, ends with a flourish in “Fin de Fiesta.” Here, the dancers, along with the guitarists, Calvin Hazen and Ricardo Anglada, and singers Felix de Lola and La Megue, let loose with the rhythms in creative, sincere ways. It was a sweet ending to an otherwise serious affair.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

Leave a Reply