The latest show from Noche Flamenca is a departure from their previous offerings. The most striking aspect was the lightness and joy emanating from the company’s star, Soledad Barrio We are used to a seriousness of purpose from her, an elemental artistic profundity. When Barrio gathers up the collective energy of the audience and her fellow performers she becomes a performing bruja who conjures up an opening between this world and whatever lays beyond. It is a potency that is transformative and even shattering when she unleashes it. This was more like being invited to a party at Soledad Barrio’s house which was fun, but different.

This show was in two parts. The first was called La Ronde, a series of duets loosely based on the Arthur Schnitzler play according to the company’s website. The veteran cantaora, Carmina Cortes, opened up singing a rousing solo and then gave way to the evening’s big surprise: the emergence of company dancer Marina Elana. I’ve seen her dance several times in recent years and she never resonated with me as a performer until this show. Her solo in La Ronde was purely delightful as she moved with confidence and assertiveness like I’ve never seen from her before. First, she danced with guitarist Eugenio Iglesias and it was flirtatious and romantic. Her arms were eloquently seductive. The second part of her dance was with bass guitarist Hamed Traore. I’ve never seen flamenco danced with just a bass guitar and it was terrific. Traore was utterly convincing, thoroughly masterful, and their partnership was lots of fun. I look forward to seeing more from Elana. Jeanne d’Arc Casas hit the stage with cantaor Emilio Florido and she was torrid. Casas was wearing a traditional bata de cola, something not seen in Noche Flamenca shows. Halfway through, she pulled down a zipper and stepped out of the dress to reveal skin tight pants she was wearing underneath. Florido handed her a pair of castanets whereupon she scorched the stage with Florido as a sidekick and left him standing there, forlorn and foresworn, as she swept off the stage. It was a great comedy routine which is another thing we haven’t seen from Noche Flamenca before.

The second part of the show was called Creación which paired Barrio with hop-hop dancer TweetBoogie in a cross-cultural expression of the journey of motherhood and the struggle to maintain independence. The piece opened with a powerful solo by Juan Ogalla who served as the central male figure. He was in fine form in the second half as opposed to the weaker appearance he made in La Ronde. It was fun watching Barrio and TweetBoogie move together but not all their collaboration worked. TweetBoogie is an entertainer and she is interesting to watch but she lacks a distinct dance vocabulary of her own which makes her seem less substantial as an artist. She was all over the map, trying out different moves, and it didn’t stand up in contrast with Barrio’s powerful roots in flamenco. I had the sense that Barrio was holding back to maintain the equilibrium. Creación was still full of good things. Lila Blue joined the flamenco singers and held her own with some fierce power of her own. Hearing her made me want more. The ensemble dance scenes that paired the hip-hop dancers with the flamenco dancers were intriguing. Moving together as an ensemble, there was more synergy between the two styles and they clearly enjoyed working together. It arrived at a festive fusion that the solos didn’t quite achieve. I’m sure more of this synthesis is coming and it will be interesting to see what happens.

This show was something new from Noche Flamenca and as such, some will resist it. Change, however, is necessary and the company is clearly not going to stand still while others lead the way into the twenty-first century. While this show lacked the transcendental moments that we’re used to sharing with Soledad Barrio, the company also needs to continue to evolve and make room for the other performers to shine.