Performing Arts: Dance
March 23, 2016
Flamenco flooded New York this March. Undaunted by appearing at The Joyce Theatre after weeks of stellar performers from Spain appearing at Symphony Space, Carnegie Hall, City Center, and Joe’s Pub, Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe made its New York debut. Siddi, who was born in Germany to an Italian father/Spanish mother, loves to dance; his choreography reflects that love with its organic flow. He honors expectations of a Spanish dance extravaganza by featuring dances with bata de cola, fan, manton, castanets, matador’s suit of lights, and clean footwork. Texas-born Ileana Gomez, with her electric presence and explosive energy, is the consistent magnet in this company.

Maria Benitez was Santa Fe’s queen of flamenco for decades. An artistic as well as educational pioneer who toured all over the US, Benitez performed annually at The Joyce Theatre. She passed the artistic torch to Siddi in 2008, having enjoyed him as her company member since 2002, and granting them the chance to develop his company by appearing nightly all summer in her Maria Benitez Cabaret Theatre at the Lodge at Santa Fe. Her endorsement and her legacy as a Native American/PuertoRican helped Siddi to start, and then he had the windfall benefit of gaining the management support of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Siddi also inherited Benitez’ longtime musical director, the Spanish born guitarist Jose “Chuscales” Valle Fajardo. Expanding beyond the triangular connection of voice, guitar and dance, Fajardo’s compositions feature cello (Michael Kott), piano (Alex Conde), cajon (Fajardo’s son Alejandro), and, as well as himself on guitar and three singers. The “cool vibe” fits the company’s southwest's sensual breeze. In this show, the most winning musical moment was a Solea for Siddi who grazed shoulders with his dancer Radha Garcia as she played long sustained notes on the violin. The lovely surprise was the fetching singer Kina Mendez from Jerez de La Frontera who is also a thrilling mover.

Perhaps the security of having started his company on third base diminished any pressure on Siddi to be clever or unusual. He delivers an entertaining and well executed show. Perhaps in time, Siddi will tighten the program, eliminating redundancies, such as positioning two manton choreographies back to back, and refrain from stretching his solos; maybe Benitez's shadow will taunt him to risk the unknown.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

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