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BWW REVIEW: Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca Return to the Joyce

BWW REVIEW: Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca Return to the Joyce

On February 15, 2018 I was fortunate enough to be in the audience at the Joyce Theater to experience this season's production of Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca. Artistic director and founder (founded in 1993) of the company, Martin Santangelo, husband of the passionate and magnetic Flamenco dancer, Soledad Barrio (born in Madrid, Spain), is also the choreographer of this work along with company members. Barrio has a strong back and legs that along with her indomitable spirit create music, drama, and atmosphere.

There are five pieces listed in the program: La Ronde, Achispar, Farruca, Zambra Caracolera, Solea; but each piece flows into the next without break. Even when we feel the end of a dance with its crescendo dying away, the dancer(s) begin again...something more to say. There is no intermission during the 1 hour 40-minute production. Music by Eugenio Iglesias, Salva de Maria, David 'Chupete' Rodriguez, Hamed Treore, and Martin Santangelo is transporting, taking the audience to another place and time. The singer, Carmina Cortes, is another jewel. Their raised stage, placed upon the Joyce's stage gave the sound of the dancers' feet a resounding, clear tone, important as they are part of the music. (I suspect that the added height of the stage enabled those sitting in the 1st two rows to see their feet.) Lighting design for La Ronde (1st piece) is by Mark London, although lighting design is not listed for the other pieces. I have seen previous productions at West Park Presbytearian Church, on Amsterdam Avenue and W.86th Street, where they often perform, that were wonderful; but I was anxious to see this company in a theater with more facility for lighting. All are good, but I am glad to have experienced this venue, as the lighting creates ambiance beyond that which the artists create without it. The background looked like a brick wall with an indentation in the center, which housed some lights and changed the atmosphere as the lighting changed. It was an excellent background for the piece in which the lighting created shadows large and small to appear on it, as well as others.

La Ronde opens with the full company on stage, dancers sitting in a row of chairs along the front of the stage, facing musicians along the left of the stage. The action continues with a choreography that includes dancers and musicians. At once we are swept into a contemporary display of the old tradition of Flamenco. Dancers and musicians broke into small groups, partnering, and solo dances, displaying technique and enormous energy. The assuredness of their feet and movements carry the performance.

The group left the stage and small groups or solo dancers and musicians took the stage to perform. One piece began with a guitarist sitting downstage with a small ruffled ball at his feet. When he began to play, Marina Elana, trained in the USA, the colored ruffles flipped over her head, was still at the musician's feet. Next, she stood tall , allowing the ruffles to fall towards her feet, revealing a traditional Flamenco dress with a train, to the delight of the audience. She danced with the guitarist. A musician comes to center stage carrying two canes. He sits on a chair. He is joined by a percussionist, carrying a rectangular box, called a cajon, that he sat on and then began to use as a percussive instrument. For me, the most exciting dancer whether dancing solo or accompanying the intense, extraordinary Soledad Barrio, is Juan Ogalla. Ogalla is authentic, displaying full male passion and sensuality. He had not the smallest hair that was not an integral part of his expression. The magnificent pas de deux of Barrio and Ogalla is the real thing, reminding me, in spirit, of the Flamenco I saw in Spain, years ago. They are man and woman.

Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca will be playing at the Joyce Theater through February 25, 2018. I highly recommend the experience!

Photo credit: Peter Graham

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