Flamenco Festival Miami
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
February 12–28, 2009
Reviewed by Guillermo Perez
Photo by Paco Manzano, courtesy Flamenco Festival Miami. Stella Arauzo in Antonio Gades' Carmen.
Spain’s traditional dance bewitches best when folkloric fire burns through artifice, be that from narrative contrivances or stagy razzle-dazzle. So it was at Flamenco Festival Miami, where the stomp and scamper of gypsy congregations—wails and handclaps conniving with guitars for lament or exhilaration—upheld the glory of this art form.
The Antonio Gades Company headlined the first week with Gades’s Carmen. This U.S. premiere stemmed from the late choreographer’s collaboration on Carlos Saura’s 1983 film. Crucial episodes, to recorded highlights from Bizet’s opera and effusive live guitars and cante, condensed Merimée’s tale of an earthy woman’s fickle and fatal attractions.
Artistic director Stella Arauzo served up a very ripe Carmen, supplanting youthful recklessness with a resolute thrust toward a searing last fling. Don José (Adrián Galia) showed austere vigor, especially when lunging at Carmen’s husband (a straight-on Joaquín Mulero) in a duel with canes. That, along with Carmen’s rumble among women and her militant seductions, turned the tone predominantly combative. What a pleasure, then, just to melt into the dancers’ fundamental craft, as in the opening company rehearsal. There, in unerring unison, hands seemed to spin exquisite webs and heels charged in a take-no-prisoners fusillade.
During the second week, singer Estrella Morente confirmed that in flamenco the voice also dances between glare and deep shadows. To close the festival, family clan Los Farruco raised standard moods and rhythms in a freedom run, accompanied by four singers and Antonio Rey and El Tuto, nimble at guitars. A no-nonsense matron, La Farruca made up for a lack of charm with hammering delivery to nail the complicated beats of a romance. Barullo, a young guy true to his moniker, which means “ruckus,” looked feral in a seguiriya. His suit soon disheveled, long hair flinging sweat, he sniffed the air and reported on delight and disturbance with crazed feet. Unabashed between proud composure and wild unraveling, El Farruco—also from the junior generation—hard drove his dense thighs, steel knees, and pistoning feet in a soleá to reveal the soul in the machine.