To be explicit, Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía is explosive. But to describe this show as just a dance performance would be negligent. The absolute power radiating from City Center’s stage this week comes not only from the dancers, but the musicians and the music, from traditions carried on in caves across the south of Spain. Instituto Andaluz del Flamenco has taken every opportunity to transport that unique experience across the world.

Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía: Metáfora © Miguel Ángel González
Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía: Metáfora
© Miguel Ángel González

Under the artistic direction of Rubén Olmo, the evening was divided into two distinct parts. Suite flamenca, the first half, epitomized the beauty and vitality of flamenco. Olmo presents the audience with the four elements of this art (singing, guitar, dancing and clapping) in as traditional a manner as possible. The musicians remained visible on a raised platform upstage for the duration of the first act, allowing them to connect with the viewers as well as the dancers. Breaking the barrier between the audience and the stage was a recurring theme for Ballet Flamenco.

From the first notes, the music set a tone of strength and vitality. Both men and women matched the guitarists’ (Daniel Jurado and Michele Iaccarino) urgency driving their own furious rhythms into the floor through their heels. With hips thrust forward and shoulders back, like a matador meeting the bull, the entire suite maintained an air of confident defiance. While the men emphasized each beat with rigidity, the women accentuated their constant motions by whipping around massive ruffled skirts and shawls.

Pastora Galván’s solo in a section titled De los reyes certainly earned its regal name. This queen of flamenco seemed to be on a mission, working the theater audience with her own choreography as though it were a private affair. Calling back to the musicians, teasing the audience, and maintaining formal posture and complicated footwork, Galván was totally in her element.

Metáfora, the second half of the performance, broke down the elements of flamenco individually. In four movements, Metáfora had the structure of an abstract ballet. Rousing sections for the whole ensemble maximized the relentlessness of the music with fast barrel turns. Dancers spun on a time, their arms blurring in an oblong path in the air.

While most of the music for this half was pre-recorded, singers Juana Salazar and Cristian Guerrero returned for a brief interlude. Wailing against percussionist David Chupete, the sheer force of their voices are enough to pin you to the back of your chair. Guest artist Rocío Molina’s solo offered another detailed look at the stylization within flamenco. Molina exaggerated the typical flamenco vocabulary, pushing the typical wrist rolls to become a voguing gesture, emphasizing the sharpness of the movement with luxurious fluidity.

Olmo and Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía present a program that shows off flamenco’s best assets. Beautiful dancers and invigorating music bring this rich tradition to life at City Center.

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