A Palo Seco: Rasgos Flamencos
nytheatre.com review by Megin Jimenez
January 28, 2011
The artists in A Palo Seco: Rasgos Flamencos go far beyond showcasing their great musical and dance talent—they offer the experience of being transported by something deep and powerful stirring inside. It’s a level of expression that can’t be faked, and that no amount of technical perfection could replace. Melancholy, pride, and raw passion—expression we’ve become unaccustomed to seeing offered without apology—burst out in wailing song, heart-racing rhythm, and impossibly fast footwork. It’s a performance that requires fearlessness, the rendering of body and spirit complete.
The company is made up of five musicians (guitar, violin, percussion, and voice) and three dancers. It’s hard to choose one artist to single out, as their performances are closely entwined and they are all, simply, so good. A variety of pieces ranging from solo dances to musical interludes to the full ensemble in performance keep the program engaging. “Musical interlude” seems a bit reductive, as the music in itself could have its own show, with original compositions by guitarist Pedró Cortés, and singing in the traditional soulful flamenco style (by vocalists David Castellano and Bárbara Martínez). Percussionist Oscar Valero gives intense momentum to the group. I was reminded of a tight jazz ensemble as the musicians improvised solos and unexpected moments of confluence over complex rhythmic structures.
Similarly, the dancers convey a sense of spontaneous expression, sparks of fire, while remaining in full control over the complicated syncopation. Laura Castellano makes exquisite use of her arms and hands, seemingly describing better, more perfect worlds in the air. Choreographer and artistic director Rebeca Tomás takes advantage of the whole stage. Her compositions highlight the silhouettes of the dancers, offering a spectacle from any seat.
Rasgos means “traces” or “characteristics.” Tomás stresses that she aims to offer a contemporary take on flamenco in her work. This doesn’t involve any awkward distortions—everyone involved clearly has a solid background in tradition. Instead, her approach seems to involve a playful attitude toward the trappings of femininity, and the tension between power and sensuality that’s intrinsic to the dance. This comes most clear in her lively finale, which she dances in the traditional long train. The dress is violet and green with loads of ruffles, showy as a peacock. The train becomes an instrument of flirtation, of exclamation, and at times, of burden, as when she wryly kicks it out of her way to better maneuver. The fan, that most coquettish of props, also makes an appearance in this dance, echoing an earlier solo piece in the program, which centers on the fan as a visual object and percussive counterpoint. Tomás dances this earlier piece in high-waisted black pants, and her shapes and silences feel most contemporary in that work.
The venue is intimate and lends itself to the camaraderie evident among the performers, which invites the audience in. Here’s hoping that this short run will lead to future performances.