When Juan Talavera raises his arms like a supremely confident swan in preparation for dancing, you watch very closely. You know he’s going to show you how to be elegant and steely at the same time, how to fill a room with the tiniest vibrations of the heels, and how to twist and flow with a spine so strong, it could support a monument and inspire the same amount of awe.
And when he puts together an evening of flamenco, as he did Sunday at Whittier High School Auditorium, he doesn’t do too badly either. Featured were Flamenco Bravo and the Men of Flamenco, as well as Talavera’s students and the Kathy Cota Spanish Dancers from Santa Barbara.
Among the dancers, the young Timo Nun~ez seems to be following in Talavera’s illustrious footsteps most closely. With an equally long, strong spine, Nunez has legible edges, nuanced dynamics and focus. But it will take time for him to engage the flamenco spirits more deeply, as the two articulate female soloists did. La Sole marshals her rolling curves and lively eyes to build a pleasant passion, while La Yeni is a cerebral, eloquent dancer whose line is serenely decorative without ever seeming empty. Among the Men of Flamenco, who dominated the second act, Ricardo Chavez stood out, with his clean lines, strong contrasts and authoritative foot-work.
Jose Tanaka escalated the moods of several soloists with his aggressive, percussive guitar, which carried them along like a fast-moving stream. In his own solo work, Tanaka proved he must have the fastest right hand in the West. Singers included Charo Monge and the feisty stylings of Pepa Sevilla, as well as a particularly affecting Ana Quintero.
The group numbers Talavera staged worked well, with perhaps 25 dancers of differing levels of ability well rehearsed in simple but pleasing swaying turns and scooping arm movements. In “Sevillanas y Tangos,” Talavera had the added advantage of presenting a spectrum of the local flamenco world--professionals with their various strengths, students who aspire and manage to get some of the style, and the next generation--represented ably by brother and sisterteam El Romerito and La Candelita.
It was also heartening to see that flamenco looks good on many kinds of bodies, especially on women with significant curves. But on masters like Talavera, it really sings.