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BWW Review: JUAN SIDDI FLAMENCO SANTA FE– Gitano (Gyspy) Flavors of Steps, Sights, and Sounds

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016, Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe performed at The Joyce Theater. Earlier in the evening, I spotted three of their dancers a few blocks from the theater. It was quite easy to recognize them as dancers by their bun, make-up, and by their stature. So, I introduced myself and wished them "merde" (a French word used by dancers for good luck). The three told me that they were excited to perform and explained the history of flamenco, both the music and the choreography. It was a spontaneous and an enlightening encounter-pre-show. While waiting for the performance to begin, I was glad to see that a large group of teens were in attendance. This gives me hope that our youth are still interested in watching live performances rather than relying on social media videos of trivial importance. The previous chance meeting combined with the adolescents in the theater started the night on a positive note for me.

The program featured eight pieces that spanned almost two hours. Within this review, I will touch upon its highlights and those which could have been shortened.

Sabor Havana (Havana Flavor - Guajira)

This piece demonstrated what is sexy, mysterious, and exciting about flamenco. It was the enthusiastic and vibrant dancing of the five flamenco dancers (aka - corps de flamenco) that excited the audience. Bright red dresses, earrings, and a traditional Spanish shawl transported me to Andalucía. José Cortes, the vocalist, evoked a passion unequalled in the cante hondo lyrics. His voice resonated this difficult style of singing with ease. The vocals were a combination of the wailings and emotions of the gypsies. It was also the gorgeous lighting that enhanced the choreography. Even though flamenco has a certain amount of individual interpretation, the dancers' arms and hands blended them into a strong corps. There were moments where I was impressed with their manipulation of the Spanish shawl, as well as the sounds of their heels. So much power within the distinctive steps had me wanting to get up and dance with them. Clever group structures had me anticipating the next acts of the night.

Segiriya (Contemporary-Traditional) and Nataraj (Lord of Dance-Tangos de Granada)

As the evening progressed, I highly enjoyed Segiriya because it was filled with intensity. The artistic director Juan Siddi and his five female dancers captured the stage by storm. With each pattern of sounds and their synchronistic movements, I was drawn into their story. While the piece unfolded, I became lost in the whirling and choreographic climaxes. This does not happen often for me and I commend Mr. Siddi on his artistic vision. When Nataraj began, the flamenco corps' ankle bracelets jingled the sounds of the gypsies. Vocalist Kina Mendez, spontaneously danced flamenco. However, what was outstanding about it was that she accomplished this while wearing five-inch stilettos! I guess if she could pull it off in that footwear, I might be encouraged to try as well. The vocalists Kina Mendez, José Cortés, and Coral De Los Reyes were predominantly featured and extremely passionate in their song and within their body language.

Soleá (Dance Solo)

Juan Siddi's solo showcased how seasoned a performer he truly is. The choice of using the matador's traje de luces jacket added a flavorful aspect taken from the corrida de toros (bull ring). His energy was drawn from each of the three singers and wonderfully talented musicians onstage, which included the violin virtuosity of Radha Garcia (one of the female flamenco dancers). It impressed me that Ms. Garcia utilized her violin bow with as much gusto as she had previously demonstrated from her dancing. I have seen very few performers who can be as versatile and as accomplished as she was. One of my favorite moments was when Mr. Siddi appeared to be on a turntable, center stage. Yet there is no such apparatus at the Joyce. It was in his own demi-pointe control of slow motion revolutions that caused me to do a double take. Throughout his solo, he took us on a rainbow of sounds and an emotional rollercoaster. His movements all seemed to emanate from his center, especially when Mr. Siddi turned at lightening speed on his Flamenco heels. From his hands to his feet, invisible sparks of power permeated within his surroundings. I would have preferred if this piece had been shortened with a few less stunning climaxes. When I was pulled into the build up of a section, I easily felt the intensity of his efforts. However, after numerous times, it lacked the same impact. Sometimes less is more.

I view flamenco as the original version of tap, with its percussive patterns and its singers who fan the fires within the dancers. The interpretation by this company was well done. With a few edits and keeping the acts which were a hit that night, I believe their next New York tour will be even more of a success.

Photo Credits: Rosalie O'Connor (Duet Image of Radha Garcia and Juan Siddi -- Duet of Juan Siddi and José Cortes -- Multi-dancers Image of Juan Siddi and Company)

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From This Author Marsha Volgyi

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