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Flamenco is Vivo in Carlota Santana's Angeles/Almas

by Bonnie Rosenstock
May 23, 2015
BAM Fisher
321 Ashland Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 636-4100
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
4 West 43rd Street, Suite 608
New York, NY 10036
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, now celebrating its 32nd year, is one of the country's longest-established flamenco companies. For its Spring 2015 NYC Season, May 19-24, at BAM's Fisher Building, the company, helmed by co-founder and Artistic Director Carlota Santana, presented Angeles/Almas (Angels and Souls), a blend of the traditional and modern "New Wave." The introduction of non-traditional instruments, like flute, harmonica, saxophone and percussion, fit well with the ever-glorious Flamenco guitar and "cajón," or wooden beat box, which was introduced to Flamenco by guitarist Paco de Lucía in the 1970's after discovering it on a trip to Peru, where it originated.

Program B, on May 23, was a mix of repertory and two world premieres. The first, "Martinete-Seguiriya," choreographed by Enrique Vicent and Antonio López, was the most satisfying dance of the night, performed to perfection by dark-haired beauty Eliza Llewellyn, fair-haired Alice Blumenfeld and the intense Antonio Hidalgo, who is also the Associate Artistic Director of the company. The martinete rhythm is derived from hammer (martillo) on anvil at the forge, which blacksmiths use to heat and shape metal. Seguiriya, one of the oldest Flamenco forms, expresses sorrow. The two rhythms taken together produced a rich amalgam of strong, sharp, spirited footwork and movements of shoulders, body slaps and clapping. For one sequence, the two women snapped open and closed fans with a flick of the wrist and even balanced them on their arms while maintaining their dynamic dancing.

The other premiere, "Ausencia" (Absence) was a solo, danced and choreographed by guest star Guadalupe Torres, a two-time winner of Madrid's prestigious Certamen de Coreografía competition for Spanish dance and Flamenco. I felt she was a bit slow in getting her mojo started, but when she did, she was on fire, employing all the remarkable footwork, elegant arms, hands and arched back that is Flamenco. Her mantón work (long fringed shawl, which reached to mid-calf) at the finale was exceptional, as she whirled and flung it around her body, reminiscent of what belly dancers do with veils in a lighter fashion (Flamenco's link to Arabic roots).

There were two other marvelous solos. Isaac Tovar danced "Alegrías" (Happiness) with wholehearted passion. It is a rule in theater that you don't let the audience see you sweat, but apparently it doesn't apply to Flamenco. When Tovar masterfully executed turn after turn, he let rip a whirlwind of sweat that reached into the first row. Olé.
"Música y Baile" (Music and Dance) was performed by Hidalgo, accompanied by Gaspar Rodríguez on guitar. The dancing was softer, but elegant and meant to show the interplay and communication between the two instruments.

"Mujeres" (2009), choreographed by Hidalgo, highlighted the use of traditional female elements: castanets, fans, shawls and the extraordinary bata de cola (dress with a long ruffled train), with the latter also used in a contemporary way. Traditionally, it is majestic movement, but now it also expresses humor, fancy and flirtatiousness as the women deftly enveloped and unwrapped themselves in the bata de cola with the flick of their bodies, like a fluid vortex. While the piece is called "Women," it was a quartet, danced by Llewellyn, Blumenfeld, Tovar and Hidalgo.

"A Solas," choreographed by Angel Muñoz for five women, was first performed in 2012, but for the 30th Anniversary Season in 2013, it was reconfigured to include men, and is now a quartet. The soleá por bulerías rhythm is a hybrid. Soleares is faster, while bulerías is slow, so the dance falls inbetween and becomes structurally alegrías. It is an ever-increasingly popular rhythm to dance to, with long sequences of footwork, which were deftly performed by the above four company members.

"Majestuoso (2001)," choreographed and danced by Hidalgo partnering with Llewellyn in a striking red dress, was characterized by tientos, a fast footwork display, with moments of slower, sensual movements. Llewellyn was born in New Orleans, but has trained with the best and is the real deal. Hidalgo, from Córdoba (Andalucía) has the street creds. They made a lovely in-sync duet. However, I haven't seen smoldering since the Flamenco films of Carlos Saura, so I don't know if it has gone out of fashion and is a reflection of the "New Wave" of relationships. Hidalgo rarely touched his partner, and when they looked at each other, it seemed more platonic than passionate.

In addition to the dance numbers, there was a musical interlude, which gave the skilled musicians (guitarists Rodríguez and Pedro Medina; percussionist Jose Moreno; and wind instruments Diego Villegas) and singers (Pedro Obregon and Felix de Lola), all Spanish-born and bred, a chance to shine. And at the traditional finale, "Fin de Fiestas," the entire troupe of dancers, singers and musicians strutted their stuff to the rousing bulerías. The surprise "dancer" was multi-talented Moreno (he is also a choreographer), who busted some moves. But then lo lleva en la sangre—his mother is bailaora Estrella Morena and his father is cantaor Pepe de Málaga. Oh, what a noche.

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Lobo

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Lobo

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Lobo

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Lobo

Photo © & courtesy of Paula Lobo

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