'Flamenco in Concert'
by Toba Singer
February 21, 2003 -- Marin Center, San Rafael, California
Admittedly, I have seen only
a few flamenco performances and several Antonio Gades films in my short
tenure as a reviewer. However, the format of this flamenco evening seemed
a little out of keeping with the café, stage and filmed performances I
have seen previously. The company’s name is the name of the lead guitarist,
and he is first on the bill. His guitar playing is unaffected, and comes
in a warm, rich and fluid thrum with easy phrasing of complex melodies.
The sound of this single instrument fills up the enormous concert hall
at Marin Center, as Peña leans into his guitar and manages to pull more
and more out of the melody. Each phrase achieves a moment of equilibrium
before he goes on to the next. He teases out gentle trills that steadily
accelerate until they segue into a dance rhythm built on buoyant arpeggios.
After resounding applause, Peña is joined by two more guitarists who play
perfectly syncopated rills that have me imagining renversés. There is
no grito accompanying the guitar, but two dancers seated with the two
guitarists begin to play castanets and then a jaleo begins that carries
with it a gentle sagacity before accelerating into rapid double-time clapping.
A male dancer in a toreador jacket appears and begins his zapateo, showing
full-body articulation. As the arms lift, the lights come up, and we see
that the costume is gray. The work is deliberate, but far from sizzling.
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