Sunday, December 8, 2013

The great Soledad Barrio at The Joyce Theater

Martín Santangelo's vision for his renowned flamenco ensemble, Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca, continues to prove that superb music, dance and human voice, unadorned and with fidelity to tradition, can be enough, can archive and share rich experience. The stage at The Joyce Theater, the touring group's home through December 15, has been stripped to bare brick walls and several chairs for guitarists and vocalists. Apart from lighting designer S. Benjamin Farrar's moody poetry, everything needed is carried in the performers' skillful bodies, pulling us into the essence of human loneliness, attraction, pain and exuberance.

The current season reacquaints New York's fervent Noche Flamenca fans with the dreamy, sinuous beauty of Eugenio Iglesias's guitar work, sound quietly floating out to us like delicate incense and shaping images in the mind. Singer Manuel Gago's supple, buoyant way with his cante verses in Zambra Caracolera and guest dancer Antonio Jimenez's mischievous, in-the-moment freshness in Solea por Bulerías feel more authentic--meaning true to the actual person, not some persona--than much that passes for and is lionized as exciting flamenco performance.

I am, once again, delighted to see these three worthy performers surrounding the jewel in this company's crown, Soledad Barrio, Santangelo's wife and muse. She needs no dramatic froufrou. She is drama, so vibrantly alive as a body, even when merely stretching herself against the long line of partner Juan Ogalla in El Calzador, that you can imagine there's meaning, at least for her, in their connection.

What I notice in Barrio's Siguiriya, especially, is an active mind trained on something besides just performing. Not, What is the next step? How do I look right now? How does my footwork sound? (All of that has been well attended to and can be laid aside.) But rather, Who am I in this contained, gloom-threatened swath of light called my portion of life?

I notice a strong body determined to carve its singular mark in space and to exert magnetic--and enlivening--influence upon everyone within reach. Barrio's close interactions with the company's singers can be tender, or she can bear the sacred and humbling touch of a priestess. No conventional beauty and not possessed of meaningless charisma, she is a diva of flamenco by virtue of her willingness to reveal, as Teilhard de Chardin would have seen it, the spiritual being within as it has its human experience.

Choreography: Martín Santangelo, Gabriela Goldin Garcia
Dancers: Soledad Barrio, Juan Ogalla, Antonio Jimenez, Marina Elana
Guitarists: Salva de María, Eugenio Iglesias, Hamed Traore
Vocalists: Manuel Gago, Carmina Cortes, Jose Jimenez, Mayte Maya

See Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca at The Joyce Theater through December 15. For complete program and schedule information and to purchase tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (corner of 19th Street)

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