Soledad Barrio: Noche Flamenca | Heather Fox Lavin (Feb. 2013)

Soledad Barrio: Noche Flamenca
Williams Center for the Arts
Saturday, February 2, 2013

By Heather Fox Lavin

I first experienced flamenco in a dark and cramped basement level of a bar in Sevilla, Spain. That intimate setting seemed to be the natural way to experience the raw emotion of flamenco. To my surprise, Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca were able to translate the unique experience of flamenco to a proscenium presentation. The company brought an authentic expertise to the toque (guitar), cante (song) and baile (dance) of flamenco.

The evening was divided into several pieces in the program, but seemed to flow effortlessly from one section to the next. Our first view was a seated man playing a guitar. Another layer of sound was added by the company, clapping. The women wore traditional ruffled skirts and the men were well-dressed in slacks and jackets. Gradually the sound grew to include singing, stamping and what seemed to be random shouts of, “Ole!”. The pure emotion of the singers caught me by surprise. They sang from the bottom of their bellies and their faces were strained from emotion. This was only an introduction to what lay ahead.

Soon the emotion grew so physical that the dancers began to move. Immediately the signature physicality of flamenco was seen: proud upright carriage, expressive arms and rhythmic stamping. Each dancer of the company was introduced with solo. The performance began to take on a comforting ebb and flow. Energy would build and erupt into lightening-fast footwork and then wash away leaving the dancers to slowly, but purposefully, drag their feet as they moved through a sequence of expressive poses.

Noche Flamenca’s male soloist, Juan Ogalla commanded the attention of the audience. His intensity and passion were tangible as he whipped his head of long curly hair from side to side. His sharp and direct movements screamed manliness while he evoked sensuality with each look at his female counterpart, Soledad Barrio.

If Barrio was dancing, they were watching. She executed each movement with such attack that the audience was mesmerized. Her arms and face were expressing a myriad of emotion all while she remained standing tall with her chest puffed out with pride. Barrio forcefully turned and whipped her skirt around like a matador de toros evoking tension in the audience. Her great skill was juxtaposing stillness and slow movements with her quick and precise footwork all while maintaining the same intensity and sensuality .

The performance was a mesmerizing display of the traditional Spanish dance. Artistic Director, Marin Santangelo, did not have to compromise the authenticity of the art form for the western stage. The performance left me emotionally exhausted from experiencing the roller coaster of feelings and passion of each company member. The company is made up of masters who truly know their art form and have the skill to share it well with unfamiliar audiences. The only things that could have made this performance more enjoyable would have been a glass of Spanish wine and tapas