Arts dance review

The stars are bright

Flamenco Festival comes to Boston

6665 flamenco
Four of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers performed at Berklee Performance Center last weekend.
Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd

Stars of Flamenco

Directed by Ángel Rojas

Presented by World Music/CRASHarts

Mar. 8, 2014

Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston

There was a high concentration of dance talent in Boston last weekend. As part of this year’s international Flamenco Festival, four of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers performed just across the river from MIT.

The show opened with a few short solos to introduce the dancers and focus the audience’s attention. It gave a flavor of the excitement to come, featuring castanets, stomping, singing, spinning — and a silvery bucket, which unfortunately didn’t make a reappearance, but was used to good effect as a reflective and percussive prop.

The first star to take the stage was Carlos Rodriguez, the co-founder and choreographer of the Nuevo Ballet Español, which mixes contemporary and flamenco dance. Combined with heart-wrenching singing, his performance was a moving emotional outpouring. His rhythmic stamping created percussion; his feet struck the floor as rapidly as the strumming of the guitar and contributed to the build-up of tension. When the audience erupted at the end, the applause just seemed a natural extension of the performance.

In the following performance, Jesús Carmona and Lucía Campillo engaged in a fierce dance-off and duet. The lighting dramatically shadowed their faces, and into the silence Carmona’s feet stamped the accompaniment to his moves with incredible rhythmic control, whilst his arms and body whipped around so rapidly you could hear the air rip. Soon enough, Campillo’s twirling body responded in kind. Their last move beautifully distilled the essence of the piece — in sync, they lunged at and past each other, catching each other with one hand, and reaching forward and beyond one another with the other.

Subsequent dances highlighted other aspects of flamenco. For example, Antonio Canales interacted with the singers, and they built up the warm atmosphere of a group, surrounding him, clapping and shouting out encouraging exclamations in Spanish. A trio of women, Karime Amaya, Lucía Campillo, and Carmen Coy, sported eye-popping traditional red dresses whose frilling trains they wielded like spotted tails.

Jesús Carmona later returned for a solo, looking dapper in a yellow suit with red tassels and a red sash. Like the previous dancers, whenever he seemed to finish, he would irrepressibly start again, each time more intensely. After slumping down into a chair, his feet began tapping until he sprang up to resume whirling and stamping. He upped the ante to rival even Rodriguez’s feet-stamping, increasing the frequency until his steps sounded like the buzzing of a bee, finally terminating with a dramatic decelerating spin.

The only thing that really marred the show was a problem with the lighting. Partway through a musical solo by Rocío Bazán the stage lights died, and they restarted again during the final dance by Karime Amaya, but continued to sputter thereafter. However, the show went on. Without once breaking their stride, these ladies continued to sing or dance their hearts out. In fact, Amaya’s energetic spins catapulted her hair accessories out until her hair was in disarray.

Flamenco is a famously powerful and passionate dance form, and these “stars of flamenco” demonstrated this unequivocally. If you’ve never seen the dance but have eyes and ears and a heart, be sure to check it out sometime — you’ll be in for a treat.

There are two upcoming flamenco performances at the Berklee Performance Center, by Tomatito on Sunday March 16 at 7 p.m., and Buika on Saturday April 12th at 8 p.m.