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BWW Review: SOLEDAD BARRIO & NOCHE FLAMENCA Vivaciously Rumbled Astor Place

At Joe's Pub, located inside The Public Theater in the neighborhood of Astor Place, I dined at the cabaret on March 26, 2016. While in the venue's intimate setting, which included a fusion cuisine menu and a glass of Pinot Noir, I imagined that this would be the type of setting that flamenco in España (Spain) is performed. I was seated roughly forty feet from where I would see their feet.

On December 7, 2015, while I reviewed The Dance Magazine Awards for Broadwayworld, Soledad Barrio was one of the recipients. Her solo performance was outstanding. It just so happened that I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to see her perform again with Noche Flamenca. I needed to see if a lightening performance would strike twice.

Two cabaret-style chairs were placed back-to-back on the center of the fifteen by fourteen foot stage. The ten cast members-two singers, four musicians, and four dancers -- began using the stage space with mathematical precision. The hour and half long performance was filled with smooth transitions while the time flew by. Dancer Carlos Menchaca, with his youthful exuberance and his fingers a blur, created the movement that propelled his feet and heels. He warmed up the crowd and I loved his long ponytail. So gitano (gypsy). Thereafter, Soledad Barrio entered the stage and with her purple satin dress and traditional dance heels. It was in her lyrical flamenco solo that she captured the attention of the audience and never let them go. One of the guitarists soulfully strummed to her movements, which gave the effect of inspiring each other. This was why I came that night. Since the stage was so close, I was able to see her passion and the detail of her fingers, arms, and legs. As she completed her act, Soledad slipped quietly into the shadows.

The bass guitarist Hamed Traore and Soledad's guitarist kept us in the mood. Their music had character and a banter as if we were listening to a private conversation. Mr. Traore's bass had wonderful deep notes for Marina Elana's dance solo. Even though she had the flamenco technique and improv-like steps, her solo did not move me. Thereafter, there was a guitar interlude that was similarly designed to change the mood as sherbet is offered to change the pallet for the next flavor.

Mr. Menchaca's solo was a more raw display of hand movements-circular and it almost appeared as if he were fighting off an offender. This was a different side of this dance style than the traditional matador stance. A rogue-like feel of emotions and translation. His arms extended into modern curves and then he began swift and loud heel tapping to tell the audience a story of pain and uncertainty. What will become of manaña (tomorrow)? How striking his performance was to today's times.

The next interim brought with it David Rodriguez (percussionist on an apple box) and Emilio Florido (Cante Jondo vocalist) who used two canes that took the place of the stomps of the dancers. It was creative, fun, witty, and had another conversation of dueling sounds. Mr. Rodriguez slipped his fingers into a set of castanets, which are traditionally used by dancers. However, this unique integration was delightfully well received.

A stunning performance took place by this next dancer-Antonio Rodriguez. Even though the previous sentence sounds like a tagline of a commercial for a Broadway show, that sentence was fully earned by Mr. Rodriguez. In a button-up patterned shirt, blazer, pants, and black and white male flamenco heels, he sweated right through his entire outfit. The lighting perpetuated the performance between heart, soul, mind, and body. Mr. Rodriquez channeled the Andalusian spirits who gave life to this incredible controlled and strong expression. I don't think he needed an audience to dance. He just needed his musicians and his shoes. This was a look into a performer who was confident within himself and performed for himself. A dancer feeds off the energy of the people, yet Mr. Rodriguez found his energy within the beats and rhythms that surrounded him. I was completely sold and also utterly satisfied.

Soledad Barrio was the final act of the evening with an encore performance of the entire company in ballet coda style. She was the glue that held the group. My only criticism was that I had to crane my neck constantly to catch a glimpse of the important footwork. If one is to see their show, book your seat at the sushi bar-like front row or the tables that were located a few steps above the main floor.

There was no need for glittering spotlights or fancy costumes. It was the work that spoke for itself. This performance was anything but a tourist attraction. An attraction nonetheless because it was the real deal. Olé!

Photo Credit: Andrea Mohin

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