The colorful rhythms of flamenco — Spain’s spirited gypsy art — rang out on Thursday night in the intimate Recital Hall at the University at Albany.
Flamenco Vivo II, the small, sister ensemble of Carlota Santana’s Flamenco Vivo, took over this intimate stage for a brief but rapturous program that distilled the best of this ancient music and dance form.
With only a cast of five — guitarist Joaquin Gallegos, singer Chayito and dancers Jesus Munoz, Laura Peralta and Leslie Roybal — this chamber group sweetly invited its audience to taste the most prominent flavors of this decorative song and dance.
And they did it with a zest that bespoke of their devotion to flamenco.
As this was not Santana’s first company, the program was tightly scripted — leaving little room for error and/or flamenco’s penchant for wild improvisation. Still, there was space for the quintet of artists to express their personalities, a must for every genuine flamenco artist. While each had their way, the most riveting member was Munoz, who danced “Seguiriya,” described in the program as flamenco’s most serious musical form. Indeed, this man in black was intense. He entered, with his back to the audience, his arms raised and curved as if a hawk about to take flight. He snapped around, giving the audience a challenging eye as if daring those in the house to breath. And then staring us down — like a bullfighter watching his beast — he clapped his hands gently and deliberately. Gallegos and Chayito responded with haunted strumming and chants and the dance began.
Snapping his fingers as his arms floated around his torso and head, Munoz grew large, turning into an unstoppable force of energy. His footwork — both hard and soft — hit upon every part of his foot. Toe, heel and ball battered and skimmed the floor’s surface creating a music that insisted on attention. And as he slowly wound down his dance, he inspired cheers and shouts of “Ole.”
“Guajiras,” a fan dance, provided the most beautiful moment of the evening. Peralta and Roybal, dressed in white, flicked opened their fans, waving them over their heads as if doves were circling above. Both women, dancing in unison, wielded their props, making them appear like their wings or extensions of the ruffles on their pristine dresses.
The program also featured a solo for Chayito, the matronly heart and voice of the ensemble. Gallegos also took a turn in the spotlight with a song that spoke of solitude and a yearning heart — two sentiments well-told by flamenco.
The evening concluded with “Negra Tomasa” or “Rumba Flamenca,” a celebratory piece that spoke of the art’s connection to all Latino rhythms — primarily in the Caribbean. The song and dance held sway in a delightful way that left its audience longing for more.
Luckily, there is yet another chance to see and hear Flamenco Vivo II. The troupe will perform a lecture-demonstration at 7 tonight at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs.