A Hot Flamenco Night With Maria Bermudez

There is hot, and then there is blistering. Flamenco dancer Maria Bermudez and her company of 10 musicians and dancers from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, nearly torched the stage of the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Friday with their high-combustible yet tradition-bound program, "Sonidos Gitanos/Gypsy Flamenco." White-hot passion coalesced with flying feet and fluttering fringe as adrenaline soared in this Fountain Theatre co-production.

Bermudez, a tall, lithe beauty with feline eyes, excels in snarling turns, florid handwork and penetrating footwork. Like the tiers on her gowns, so too is her dancing multilayered. Her breathtaking solo, "Alegria de Pasion," found her gliding across the stage one moment, stomping the next, all the while mesmerizing with rapturous arms.

"En la Candela," a duet with guest artist Domingo Ortega, scorched with chemistry as the couple executed precise unison backward jumps and bewitching turns. Ortega, his long, curly hair flying a la Howard Stern, exploded with impossibly high jump kicks and staccato bursts of blazing heel and toe tapping in his solo, "Macande (Crazy)," accompanied by the musky-throated vocals of Antonio de la Malena and Pepe de la Joaquina.

Also showing technical flair and lunging precision, though affecting a boyish, unseasoned charm, was Andres Pena. A young Warren Beatty type, Pena kindled electricity, moving from casual to ferocious in his sensual "Solea por Buleria."

Company dancer Rosario displayed a charging-bull carnality in her solo, "Columpiando en la Plazuela," in which a cadenza of slithery-hipped footwork fared better, however, than her shawl-twirling prowess.

Percussionist Luis de la Tota and guitarists Antonio Jero and Jesus Alvarez displayed superb musicality throughout the evening. While singer Milagros de los Reyes may have had the graceful moves of a female Jackie Gleason, her vocals, unfortunately, lacked resonant depth.

What began as a routine night out in Hollywood, turned, instead, into a torrid romp on Planet Flamenco.

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