There is something about flamenco that sets it apart from every form of music and dance.
When the stars are properly aligned and the mind and body are willing, both the dancer and the musician reach a trancelike state. It’s brought forth first by the singers who conjure up an ancient primal sound, one that is lost in modern life, but still familiar and potent to the listener.
Then there are the guitarists who wildly strum their instruments in a way that makes one think the wooden bodies will crack. And that inspires the dancers to rage — pounding their heels and twisting their torso like unstoppable tornadoes of emotion.
This is the ideal. But not every ensemble can reach it. Paco Pena’s small band of dancers and musicians did. At The Egg on Saturday night, in the intimate Swyer Theater, guitarist Paco Pena and his troupe attained flamenco nirvana.
And the audience knew it — responding with whooping and feverish applause for Pena’s “Flamencura.”
Of course, Pena is at the heart of this drive to the divine. Small, gray and seated at the edge of his seat, Pena is one with this guitar. As he plays, he is solely engaged in the music and dance. He never looks around, smiling or nodding to the audience or other musicians. His whole focus is on his guitar, looking only at it. Then, when a dancer appears, he is fully involved in watching the dancer and reading the nuances of their zapateo.
Pena’s company includes only two dancers: Yolanda Osuna Linares and Angel Munoz. But what wonderful dancers they are. At different times, they ooze grief, fury and playfulness. Together or as soloists, both start with a slow burn that bubbles over with intensity. Add in the flamenco flourishes — those poses with their chests thrusts forward, their arms circling their heads and their eyes burning through to an unseen world — and it makes the dancing feel equally frightening and thrilling.
At the start of the concert, the ensemble introduces itself with a group number.
Singer Inmaculada Rivero sets the tone by drawing sounds from deep inside her core. With vocalist Bernardo Miranda Luna at her side, urging her on with whispers of oles, she fills the theater with an urgent longing, entreating those who hear her calls to respond.
The guitarists, Pena with Francisco Arriaga and Rafael Montilla, and percussionist Ignacio Lopez, do. They layer her cante with gentle tones that gradually grow in power and presence. The dancers, who were clapping, then walk forward. Linares is a high-stepper, forcing her long skirt to billow up. Her hands are exceptionally lovely as she curls them into lacy blooms.
She yields for Munoz who snaps his frame back and forth in sharp 180 turns. His head whips about, too, as if to challenge both the musicians and the audience.
At this point, all command every second of the room’s attention. And they did so for the rest of the night.
Bravo Paco Pena and all.