The image of flamenco as an art form devoted to showcasing star soloists has become so widely accepted that the most dramatic achievement of "Sonidos Gitanos/Gypsy Flamenco" may have been creating a sense of community embracing the whole 10-member company and the audience at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Friday.
With the rich vocal traditions of the Andalucian city of Jerez de la Frontera passed among Antonio de la Malena, Luis Moneo and Melchora Ortega during song after song--some accompanying dances, some not--even nonspecialists could appreciate how the distinctive timbres and expressive choices of individual singers could personalize classic flamenco style. The dances, too, emerged from this sense of shared artistry and managed to preserve a feeling of intimacy even when most flamboyant.
First seen dancing on a table-top, company director Maria Bermudez proved particularly dynamic in her Solea por Buleria, wearing pants and a sleeveless top that vividly projected every motion of her limbs and, especially, the twisty and often vehement use of her bare arms. At the end, the solo suddenly grew bigger in scale, bolder in attack, faster in pace, allowing a glimpse of Bermudez's spectacular technical resources at something like full power.
In his Solea, guest artist Alejandro Granados exploited startling contrasts between smooth, almost weightless dancing and sudden bursts of intense, percussive footwork at high speed--the former ornamented with delicate hand passes, the latter with asymmetrical jumps and turns that looked made up on the spot. He also danced a proficient, uneventful duet with Bermudez, "Casida de las Palomas Oscuras," formal and even a little chilly until the very end.
Offering such surprises as the flamenco equivalents of both moonwalking and rap, the irrepressible singing and dancing Tomasito brought jaunty contemporary energy to "A Mi Aire," while the lilting interplay between guitarist El Bola de Jerez and box-drummer El Pajaro made a strong case for mellow, relaxed expertise. Guitarist Jesus Alvarez and dancer Rocio Marin added their own skills and personalities to the occasion.
The house program set the context for the event with a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca:
"O city of the gypsies!
Who could see and not remember you?
City of sorrow and musk,
City of Cinnamon towers . . ."
It was the special achievement of this latest edition of "Sonidos Gitanos" (co-produced, as before, by the Fountain Theatre) that it seemed completely at home in our city of sorrow, our refuge for gypsies of all kinds, flanked by the cinnamon towers of the amphitheater and perfectly catching the sensuality of what Lorca called "the night silvernight, the night so full of night."