May 18, 2018
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana celebrates its 35th year with a spectacular show at the BAM Fisher Theater. Ms. Santana herself came out to welcome the audience introduce the first half of the program as it deviated with traditional Flamenco. Mujeres Valientes is a Flamenco dance drama telling the story of two trailblazing women- Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, one of Mexico’s first feminists and Manuela Saenz, one of South America’s first female activists. We first got to know Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz portrayed by Estefania Ramirez, who made a difficult choice to join a convent because it was her only path to knowledge.
Using a small book in the place of a fan, the inner struggle could be felt through the dramatic moment highlighted by fluttering flamenco hands and feet.Her counterpart Manuela Saenz portrayed by Elisabet Torras is all fire and no hesitation. Manuela loved and fought side by side with revolutionary Simon Bolivar, saving his life and helping to establish independence.
In ways Mujeres differed from traditional Flamenco- the musicians sat on the balcony above the stage and the costuming was more character driven- however the dancing effectively underscored these women’s stories. Each movement allowed the audience to become more invested in these women and the different ways they had to fight to live their lives. This was a beautiful tribute as presented through an evocative medium by an impassioned company.
For those who were hoping to see more traditional flamenco, the second half of the evening did not disappoint, rather only making them hungry for more. The company musicians moved onto the stage to feature solos by the visiting artists Guadalupe Torres and Jose Maldonado with a group piece from Flamenco Vivo in between. Torres first lit up the stage in her bright green and pink dress. With wide eyes that looked at the audience like she had some great stories to tell, she began working with her shawl and long skirt.
From the minute she began to dance the audience was putty in her hands. Torres played of the musicians and the audience equally, letting the whole room exist around her. Maldonado's piece was tense and powerful. Each movement vibrated through the air endlessly until he moved again. Taut as a box, he pulled back, ready to strike.So when the moments of release final came throughout the piece, it felt totally satisfying. Maldonado’s movements might be the sharpest I’ve seen and paired with his boyish charm and entertaining faces, it felt truly special to watch him dance.
Pa’ Triana Voy danced by the Vivo Flamenco company was just as bright. Playing with rhythm and shape, it was an outstanding showcase to everyone's skills. Bulerias offered one last opportunity to see each individual dancer and in turn, made us sad to see them go. As someone less familiar with Flamenco, this company brought to the surface a new passion that will draw me back to see them again and again.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller