With her elegant proportions and beautifully ornamented style, Maria Benitez should be required viewing for aficionados of Spanish architecture as well as Spanish dance. As imposing in stillness as in motion, she evoked the glory of both art forms Saturday at Beckman Auditorium, Caltech.
In an evening of mostly flamenco music and dance, Benitez exemplified the technique and temperament, the power and sensuality of a dance form too often debased in local performances. A beautifully integrated program showcased her consummate artistry and the considerable talents of her company.
The contrasting moods and rhythms of “Solea” displayed Benitez’s stylistic and dynamic range. Slow and sultry in an undulating promenade entrance, fast and furious in the footwork, daring in an emphatic back-slanted pose, she was always in complete command.
Manolo de Cordoba’s “Farruca” held as much drama in the slow upswing of an arm as in a sudden lunge to one knee. In bearing as well as technique, he embodied the austere beauty of his tradition.
Sandra Jimenez brought a powerful attack and an elemental quality to her “Alegrias” (choreography by Ciro). In the opening turns her arms cut through the air like a plow cleaving the soil, and nearly every burst of footwork ended in an earthy pose.
In a “Jaleo” staged for the company by Antonio Portanet, the bright personalities of Jimenez and Rafael Torres complemented the darker colorings of Benitez and Cordoba. In addition to performing several other flamenco works, Jimenez, Cordoba and Torres danced a delightful, high-spirited jota and Benitez appeared in a gloriously moody, Spanish-style interpretive solo.
A lilting, delicate guitar solo by Miguel Rodriguez and a dramatic, percussive one by Paco Izquierdo completed the program. Antonio Castillo provided haunting flamenco vocals.