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Robert Abrams
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Flamenco
The Joyce Theater
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Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco

by Robert Abrams
November 30, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco

Dancers: Maria Benitez with Alejandro Granados and Yolanda Heredia, Carola Zertuche, Alofo Lobato Vega, Juanaire, Daniel Peregrino
Musicians: Jose Valle Fajardo "Chuscales", Antonio Andrade, Francisco J. Orozco Fernandez "El Yiji", Jesus Alvarez Linares "Jesule de Utrera"
Lighting design: Clifton Taylor
Stage Manager: Maxine Glorsky
Costumes by Leanne Mahoney, Courtney Boyd, Davis and Jody Ellis, Edla's Studio, Bobbi Culbert
Shoes: Gallardo, Menke, Capezio

www.mariabenitez.com

Presented at the Joyce Theatre
New York, NY
www.joyce.org

Robert Abrams
November 30, 2003

When you give your ticket to the usher for a Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco performance, check your expectations at the door. The show included both social and theatrical flamenco. During the social numbers, I could almost forget that the dancers were on a stage and instead imagine these were just people in a club spontaneously getting up to dance - albeit with consistently great skill. They made me feel like I wanted to be in such a club, closer to the action. The theatrical numbers were very artful - the equal of any of the best dancing I have seen at the Joyce.


Maria Benitez
Photo courtesy of Athi Mara

The choreography was very appealing. For instance, in Estampa Flamenca Presentacion a man starts dancing in a spotlight amid three other male dancers and four musicians. In the next segment, a woman starts her dance in the same spotlight. The dancers and the lighting then transition to the use of the full stage. In Entre Tres Y Yo (Farruca), the choreography made great use of two dancers close to each other dancing in tandem, offset from the line of dancers, first in the center, then moving apart into a dispersal pattern, and finally in tandem again on the wing.

The dancing was flawless with precise 180 degree rotations, stamping, and intricate embellishments with their feet. In Solea, Carola Zertuche danced with her whole body, even though she mostly used a still topline.

The costumes ranged from simple black outfits, purple shoes, and red dresses to a multi-colored dress with a very long train. In Bambera, Adolfo Vega's face was the bright point of the outfit (as it should be), but his shoes glowed purple assuming an integrated sub-focus in an otherwise black outfit. In Cordoba, Maria Benitez danced in a beautiful white dress that wouldn't have looked out of place at a wedding. In Paseando Por Cadiz (Alegrias), Yolanda Heredia filled the space just be walking through it, although her very long multi-colored skirt enhanced this effect. She would launch into a burst of rapid energy, followed by a release as if exhaling. The fabric formed shifting geometrical curves. The train wound up and then the potential energy was released with a flick of her foot.

The dancers were very expressive. They were often serious with a sense of humor poised to burst through. They were inspirational. Their rhythmic fluidity was a thing of beauty. This was pure dance with character bursting forth. Even the music had great soul.

I especially liked Alejandro Granados in Con "Tronio" (Siguiriya). He danced like he was facing a bull, and then he became the bull during each burst mode. The chanting accompanying this dance sounded almost Indian. Maybe I was just imagining the standard chanted phrases from classical Indian dance, but there are many cultural cross-currents that sometimes show up where you aren't expecting them, so it is possible.

In the penultimate number, Recuerdos (Granaina), Maria Benitez danced like an eagle. She was riveting in total silence. She could be both strong and rapid. Her movements were impassioned.

The finale provided a fitting end to the show. The entire company traveled across stage with each dancer doing a little solo in transit. Even the musicians danced. All of the dancers sang. It was raw and spontaneous and artful all at once. Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco performs with an artistry that invites the audience in. Accepting the invitation is as easy as buying a ticket for their next show. Whatever you do, don't miss their next show. You might even be inspired to take a few dance lessons.

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