March 5, 2015
Wooden chairs, toppled on each other, stretched across New York City Center’s stage, in front of six drawings mounted on partitions of flamenco legends: Paco de Lucia, Camaron de la Isla, Antonio Gades, Enrique Morente, Moraito, and Carmen Amaya. Sara Baras, lithe and elegant, dressed in black pants and white jacket, slowly walked the width of the stage, gazing at the sketches of the guitarists, singers, and dancers, all of whom set standards that flamencos everywhere try to adhere to. She slipped upstairs as the chairs disappear, and six dancers dressed in black burst forward, dancing in unison.
While the spotlight was rarely off Baras, her husband, the engaging Jose Serrano complimented her calm, immaculate presence with an off-kilter charm revealed in “Sequirilla,” a duet that showed more love than flash, and in his solo “Solea.” Baras dances with the precision, clarity, and speed of guitarist Paco, more than with the animal fierceness of gypsy dancer Carmen Amaya, or the raw, rattled energy of Camaron. No doubt as famous as Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, Baras’ flat footed skitter is her signature, along with her thrown-to-the-rafters smile. Her arms have the ineffable sweetness of Morente's voice, while the delicate sensuality of her hands is a marvel all her own.
Throughout the program, a male voice recited in Spanish some reflections on flamenco – reprinted in English in the playbill – from the honored artists. Moraito is quoted as saying, “Sometimes this pain also pleases your soul; its spirit pleases you because sometimes pain is necessary for your soul.”
Torres Cosano designed the costumes, two of which quite memorable – a multi-layered chiffon dress, a section of which Baras could flip over her shoulder, tuck into the top of her dress, or lift to the side to create the illusion of a full circle while turning, and a green, three-tiered fringe dress, later transformed by a green velvet, embroidered bolero.
Keko Baldomero directed the excellent cast of seven musicians, including himself on guitar, along with Andres Martinez, singers Rubio de Pruna, Israel Fernandez, and Miguel Rosendo, and Manuel Munoz Pajaro with Antonio Suarez on cajon.
Miguel Marin, the organizer of the Flamenco Festival, stepped in front of the curtin to honor Valerie Gladstone, a New York writer recently deceased, whose enthusiasm for flamenco contributed to the success of this internationally touring festival now in its 16th year.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers