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Pasión Flamenca presents Tributes

by Robert Abrams
October 16, 2008
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012
212-431-9233
ArtsFlamenco
I expect to publish a full review of Pasión Flamenca presents Tributes soon, but I decided to push out a quick overnight because this show is worth seeing, and represents the continued evolution of a dance company.

Tonight was the opening gala for Pasión Flamenca's season at the Joyce SoHo. The evening started at 6:30 pm with wine and finger food in the Spanish style that was passed around. The conversation was lively and congenial.

The show started at 8 pm. The first act consisted of La Ultima Gota de Agua (The Last Drop of Water), Recuerdo a Mi Tio Savas (a musical interlude), and Los Mineros (an excerpt from Flamenclorico: Lore of the Miners). The second act consisted of one long number called Estampas Flamencas, which was a series of solos and a group finale reminiscent of what is often performed in tablao settings.

All of the performances were very good. I have mostly seen Jorge Navarro and his crew perform on small stages, so I was wondering how well they would use the somewhat larger space at the Joyce SoHo. They had laid down a wood floor that covered most of the stage. During the performance the space seemed filled with the dancing. La Ultima Gota de Agua, a solo by Jorge Navarro, was impassioned. Make sure to read the program notes for this dance before you watch it, though, because it has an intended meaning (a tribute to friends who have died of AIDS), and while the imagery makes sense if you know the intention ahead of time, it will read as abstraction if you don't. There is nothing wrong with dances that require the audience to be prepped before the dance is viewed. While being self explanatory entirely within the dance is one ideal for a work of dance, it is not a necessary ideal. Plenty of dances, ranging from classical ballets to African folk dances, assume that the audience already knows the story, which frees the audience to learn from the how of the storytelling, rather than the what of the story telling. This is also consistent with the philosophy of drama espoused by Brecht, so Pasión Flamenca is in good company. The only thing I might change regards the use of a Bible in the dance. The image certainly was vivid, and probably represents some combination of faith as a source of comfort in trials, as well as frustration that G-d allowed this tragedy to happen. To be clear, I am not suggesting that the dance be changed. I am suggesting that the company might want to consider expanding the program notes on the dance to discuss what the use of the Bible means to those who created the dance. Or maybe not. Pasión Flamenca might consider using La Ultima Gota de Agua in a workshop setting where audience members could use the dance as a kind of Rorschach test to elicit discussion regarding how faith and AIDS do or should interact.

Pasión Flamenca presents Tributes makes a very good Flamenco sampler, but the highlight of the evening was Los Mineros. I thought this section of the evening length Flamenclorico: Lore of the Miners was powerful when I first saw it as part of the whole show. I thought it was just as powerful tonight when presented on its own. The body language is simple and quiet for much of the number, but the rhythms of the feet and canes of the two dancers (Jorge Navarro and Antonio Hidalgo), combined with those of the musicians, diverge and come together in patterns that approach perfection. I am sure there is a more fine grained reason why I like this number so much, but for the moment that will have to do, except to say that I see a lot of dance, much of which is good, but I don't say "You absolutely gotta see this!" lightly. I think that Los Mineros is one number you absolutely gotta see.

Tickets to the show are $25 ($22 for students and seniors), and are available for purchase through the Joyce website. Tickets to the opening night gala cost $75 (which I thought was a fair price: the supporters were treated well, also including many raffle prizes, a gourmet cookie to take home and a coupon for a free Flamenco dance lesson, but the event was also spare enough so that the dance company really does raise money to support their art).

It was great to see Pasión Flamenca successfully tackle a larger stage and event. I am sure this is a sign of good things to come.

The dancers in the show were Jorge Navarro, Antonio Hidalgo, Rebeca Tomás and José Moreno. The live musicians were Pedro Cortés and Raphael Brunn on guitar, Alfonso Cid and Bárbara Martinez on vocals. The choreographer for La Ultima Gota de Agua was Jorge Navarro, and the choreographer for Los Mineros and Estampas Flamencas was Antonio Hidalgo. (To my eye, the choreography in Estampas Flamencas looked like it might have been at least partly improvised, which would be consistent with the style of dance often found in tablao settings. Since Flamenco is based in large part on a kind of mutual breathing interaction between dancers and musicians, but stage dancing often requires the repeatability of precisely defined choreography, it would be interesting to have a discussion with Mr. Hidalgo and other Flamenco choreographers about how they find the right balance. But that is a subject for another day.)
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