Kat Murrell
Flamenco Vivo

“Jaleo” (“hell-raising”) in South Milwaukee

By - Feb 7th, 2012 01:05 am
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Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. SMPAC photos by Alex Clark.

Flamenco has four essential parts: Dance, song, guitar and jaleo, colloquially described by one source as “hell raising.” Lively shouts and claps of jaleo abounded at Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana’s Saturday show at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

This New York troupe showed a capacity crowd a variety of flamenco styles, many with elements of Latin or South American music. The two guitarists and two vocalists (one also played percussion) sat toward the back of the sparse stage. An opaque scrim was the only backdrop. Its changing colors helped set mood for each piece, and great use of spotlighting put the focus on key performers in key passages. The five dancers appeared in various combinations of solos, duets, and trios.

The entire ensemble danced the first piece, Colombianas. It combined Spanish song with inspirations from Latin America. A couple of tables and chairs hinted at the feeling of a bar or cafe and set the stage for a bit of narrative as couples and soloists moved with rhythmic feet and graceful, authoritative swaying and spinning bodies. Later, Guajiras called to mind a steamy Cuban afternoon, with a brilliant orange backdrop and three female dancers outfitted in glowing white dresses and fans.

The first half of the program  introduced flamenco and its variations. The dancers created a strong rapport with the audience, particularly though the showcase effect of the five pieces using various rhythms and styles of songs. In the second half, the company delved deeper into the traditions of Andalusia further revealed flamenco’s power and passion.

In Mujeres, the female dancers appeared in the bata de cola, the long dress with flounced train often associated with flamenco. This piece also demonstrated the use of fans, shawls, and the sharp precision of castanets.

The three women of the company – Julia Chacón, Leslie Roybal and Illeana Gomez – moved together with energy and confidence in their ensemble pieces, while maintaining their own distinct personalities and styles. This is also true of the male dancers: Antonio Hidalgo and Pablo Fraile.

Fraile provided some of the most breathtaking moments of the evening with his solo Alegrías. Fraile connected with the musicians in a palpable way, as dancer and players responded tightly to each other in sharp rhythmic beats and changing dynamics, from heart-pounding quick pulses to smooth, elongated sound and motion. Fraile’s commanding presence entranced the audience as hypnotically as a toreador in the bullring.

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