Review: FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA Premieres Voces de Andalucia at BAM

By: May. 04, 2016

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana premiered the company's show, "Voces de Andalucia," at the Brooklyn Academy of Music May 3, 2016. The contemporary program paid tribute to Pablo Picasso and Federico Garcia Lorca.

The first piece of the evening was the world premiere of "PiCa," choreographed by Susana di Palma. It began with a white screen that contained only Picasso's signature. Then we were treated to black and white footage of Picasso himself taking his brush to the screen as if painting on a transparent canvas.

The piece was an interpretation of Picasso's Blue Period and cubism, exploring his obsession with death and redemption. Di Palma also wrote the lyrics to original music by one of the company's guitarists, Gaspar Rodriguez. The lyrics were included in the program in both Spanish and English. The final stanza reads, "Each painting, each rhythm, Each color is a battle. A battle against oneself, against the art of painting...destruction."

The second piece on the program was just for the musicians and singers. Called "Música Andaluza," this world premiere is also by Rodriguez and was inspired by Lorca's "Canciones Populares." The most exciting aspect of this portion was the remarkable hand drum speed of percussionist and singer Francisco Orozco.

The next piece of the evening, also devoted to Lorca, and entitled "Federico," was adapted by company dancer and Associate Artistic Director Antonio Hidalgo from the 1997 original choreography by Angel Rojas and Juan Andrés Maya. Hidalgo danced the part of Lorca, and Eliza Llewellyn appeared as his muse, while four other dancers appeared as his family and friends. Much of the choreography included deep lunges and turns, and as Llewellyn twirled her fingers, we saw her pulling Lorca as if with an invisible string.

Toward the end of the piece, the couple opened a trunk on stage, and a projection appeared behind them containing a large open book. A collection of letters and occasional words floated from its pages - words in Spanish like "Bodas de Sangre," which means "blood wedding."

The music by Cañada and Gaspar Rodriguez included two guitarists (Rodriguez and Pedro Medina), two marvelous singers (Orozco and Felix de Lola), and flutist Diego Villegas.

While the first half of the program was enormously heartfelt, the second act was more of a crowd-pleaser. This suite of pieces by British National Dance Award nominee Angel Muñoz called "Angeles II" features more of the kind of virtuosity we have come to expect from flamenco. Muñoz, who was the most exciting dancer on stage among many exciting dancers, was joined by Hidalgo, Charo Espino, and Isaac Tovar, who all performed solos. Tovar's fandango solo was particularly memorable, but I was puzzled why he wore simply khaki pants and a gray shirt.

"Angeles II" seemed to move between improvisation and choreography, which at times almost matched the music's rhythms exactly. Muñoz premiered the piece in 2011 at the Festival de Jerez and has performed it at the Sadler's Wells London Flamenco Festival and Madrid's original Flamenco Festival. Since then, he has expanded it to reflect, as it says in the program, "the divergent influences that shape a dancer's life, and the virtuosity that can be achieved when they are brought into balance." The piece certainly explored a variety of emotional colors.

Gaspar Rodriguez's music for this portion of the program was my favorite. Soft and tender in the beginning with only the flute and guitar, the clapping hands of the musicians and dancers soon added percussion. Later, Villegas replaced his flute with a harmonica and then a saxophone. When he picked up his flute again for a solo, it was an unusually percussive piece in which his breathing served as a second instrument.

Of course, the evening rose to a fever pitch of lightning fast footwork, as the dancers' sweat sprayed the air upon every rapid turn. During the curtain calls, each dancer performed a short solo as the audience members rose to their feet and applauded.

The company is in residence in BAM's Fisher Building through May 8, 2016.

Photo courtesy of Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana.