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FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA

by Jennifer Wesnousky
July 20, 2004
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA

Presented at
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
July 19-24, 2004
www.joyce.org

Jennifer E. Wesnousky
July 20, 2004

FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA's 2004 production opens with a striking tableau of ten singers and dancers, clad in stunningly bright Flamenco gear, illuminated against a background of pitch blackness. Their posed stillness is broken by the serpentine arm and hand movements for which Flamenco dancers are renowned, as the silence is pierced by the stunning purity of singer, José Salina's voice. As two coin-belted girls begin to adeptly beat upon tambourines, shimmying their coin-belted hips, we are reminded of Flamenco's Arabic roots.

While at first glance, Flamenco appears to be a blatant mixture between ballet's graceful arms and tap's fancy footwork, it is perhaps most breathtaking to watch as the result of its mixture of influences, having sprung forth from the intermingling between cultures such as the Moors (or Arabs), the Jews, the (primarily Southern) Spanish, and the Gypsies, as well as being influenced subsequently by the rhythms of both Northern Africa and South America. And, each of these influences is virtually experienced at one point or another throughout the performance of FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA.

FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA's 2004 production's two acts are divided into separate choreographic sections. The first, Bailaor/Bailaora explores and contrasts masculine and feminine roles in Flamenco and in general by presenting the act in two separate blocks: the "bailaoras," or female dancers, and the "bailaores," or male dancers. It is interesting to note that the spellings of these two words, originally "bailador" and "bailadora," are altered in Flamenco-speak to reflect the manner of speaking of the Spanish-speakers from Flamenco's hotbed in Andalusia in Southern Spain.

First come the "bailaoras" as a fiery-dressed Carlota Santana glides onstage. Concealing herself behind a shawl held high overhead, the ruffles of her dress seem to go on for miles. As her dance reveals itself to be more solemn and less playful than the opening ensemble piece, her skirt cascades gracefully in contrast to steps which become impressively fast and frenetic. So, too do the "palmas" (rhythmic clapping) of the musicians and singers behind her, who remain onstage throughout the entirety of the performance. The dancer's arms appear to conjure up some spirit as she slows down to intensely interact with the cantor (male singer). In another pink-and-white piece (each costume in FLAMENCO VIVO is more striking than the next), the girls fan themselves smoothly while their hips slice, their legs performing movements comparable to the Argentine tango's boleos. As the women finally allow bright smiles to emerge from their heretofore intense countenances, it becomes apparent the extent to which moods are mixed both within and between numbers throughout the performance.

The all male "bailaor" section begins with two spotlighted clusters: the musicians occupy one end of the stage while the men conjugate on the other. Although the men's costumes of short jackets and jumpsuits are generally muted as opposed to the brightness of the women, one hombre makes his mark with a swirling purple cape. As another jumps atop a chair, all begin their chorus of intricate stomps, holding onto the edges of their bolero jackets while sharply changing the focus of their heads. Their feet flicker so fast that they seem almost fake in contrast with the stillness of their torsos, which only permit themselves the occasional clap. In one of FLAMENCO VIVO's most memorable moments, the men, decked casually in black and white pants and tees, depart from tradition both with their costumes and choreography as they execute MTV-like formations with flare.

Whereas men and women are presented separately in the first act, the second act, En el Café de Chinitas presents them side by side within a staged tablao, or traditional Spanish Flamenco club scene. As one couple promenades around one another, they are showcased in a sort of Flamenco tale of flirtation. While every dancer in this act is given his or her turn in the spotlight, the highlight arrives with the entrance of dancer/choreographer, Antonio Hidalgo, whose solo sets both the stage and the audience ablaze. Hidalgo brings to the table of the Café de Chinitas not only his admirable artistry, but a sense of maturity and of dignity beyond his years; no doubt due to a lifetime of experience with the dance. So spectacularly swift is Mr. Hidalgo's taconeo (footwork) that he appears as if suspended above the stage.

While the audience is treated to the stunning solos of both Hidalgo and Ms. Santana herself, the ensemble pieces are equally interesting in that they allow individual dancers' personalities to shine through, even within the impressive unity of their steps. While the dancers sometimes incorporate balletic attitude turns and arabesques, not all of them appear as comfortable with this type of movement as they do in the more traditional Flamenco segments.

Overall, however, the dancers, singers and musicians in FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA put on an awe-inspiring performance. Their ever-evolving show succeeds by combining grace and strength in its exploration of a vast realm of steps, influences and emotions. Although, even in the livelier numbers, the dancers tend to maintain an introverted, almost contemplative air as if alluding to some inexplicable story, this is not so in show's finale, where the whole cast dances spontaneously and jubilantly together. Feeling their joy, the viewer feels slightly reluctant for the show's demise as the curtain closes upon their festive fiesta.


Artistic Director: Carlota Santana

Production Manager/Lighting Designer: Brenda Gray
Press Representative: Peter Cromarty & Co.
Resident Sound Designer: Bradley C. Berridge
Stage Manager: Monica Moore

Dancers: Carlota Santana, Clarita Filgueiras, Mayte Chico, Cristina Villaplana, Almudena Hernández, Antonio Hidalgo, Fermín Calvo de Mora, Zenón Ramos, Juan José García, Cristina Moguel.
Musicians: Calvin Hazen (Guitar), José Salinas (Singer), Fermín Querol (Guitar), Mónica Mata (Singer), Terence Butler (Flute).

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