Flamenco, transcendent

Posted: March 05, 2014

"Lord; take me now!" These words sprang unbidden to my lips after experiencing the beautifully composed, exquisitely executed, and completely thrilling solo by the handsome young flamenco dancer Jesús Carmona. And, mind you, I'm Jewish.

Such was the power of "Gala Flamenca," the 2014 edition of the annual all-star, all-Spanish program that has appeared, for a decade and a half, in Boston, New York, Washington, Miami, and points west, but never before in Philadelphia.

And the excitement didn't come only from Carmona. There were no low points in this 90-minute program, which filled the Merriam Theater Sunday night with a wildly appreciative crowd who skipped the Oscars, and braved yet another winter storm, to be there.

For this Gala, producer Miguel Marín and director Ángel Rojas assembled a cast headed by four exceptionally fine dancers who represented a wide range of ages and specialties, combining old-school flamenco with a newer "fusion" approach. Examples of the former included veteran Antonio Canales, who commanded attention with the eloquent movement of a single arm, and the impressive Karime Amaya's skillful and coquettish manipulation of a bata de cola (a dress with a long, ruffled train). Less traditional was the violin, played alongside the usual guitars and percussion, plus three marvelous flamenco singers. Likewise, the other true show-stopper, a sublime duet performed by Carmona with Lucía Campillo (one of two female corps dancers), included a decidedly non-flamenco lift and numerous strikingly modern configurations.

And there was more - notably a gorgeous solo by the always elegant Carlos Rodríguez, expert in both flamenco and classical Spanish dance (think: ballet with attitude), tossing off impossibly crisp, clear pirouettes alongside vueltas quebradas (flamenco turns).

A word must also be said about the costumes. Traditionally, flamenco dance dresses have tended toward the tacky, but those in "Gala Flamenca" were uniformly flattering, sophisticated, and stylish. No costume credit was included in the printed program, but this designer definitely deserved an Oscar.


No additional performances.


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