José Greco II
José Greco II Flamenco Dance Company
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts
February 20, 1999
Reviewed by K.C. Patrick
The controversy continues between what is “authentic” Spanish flamenco versus what has been adapted for performance. Flamenco music and dance has always been a medium for intimate performance and self expression, with a heavy dose of folkloric and familial tradition. But gone are the days of furtive performances in hidden caves. Now you buy a ticket to a performance on a proscenium stage and it’s up to the performers to create an aura of their exotic heritage.
José Greco II and his sister Carmela are the son and daughter of the well-known José Greco, and many members of the mostly mature audience probably saw the father’s company perform. Founded in 1996, this troupe is clearly a next-generation company. Professionally trained as dancers and experienced as savvy performers and producers, the José Greco II dancers brought flamenco guitarist and composer Antonio Gabarri, singer Alfonso Gabarri, and all the character, flash, and sophistication of modern Madrid to their performance in Brooklyn.
The opener, Orgia, choreographed by José Greco II for the rest of his company, is a contemporary piece danced to recorded music. Then Tiempo Tiempo acquaints the audience with the traditional onstage singer and guitarist, joined by dancer Raul Prieto on percussion. They were a bit rough on the ears to begin, but soon settled in.
Comfortable onstage in pleated trousers and a vest, premier dancer José Greco II leaves the wasp-waisted matador image to young Raul Prieto. In Azabache, Greco and Prieto challenge each other to a crowd-pleasing cross-generational dance-off, but they end with an embrace and the words “mi compadre.” Both are stunning personalities and dancers but Greco is clearly still the alpha male in footwork and command of attention.
Joining the three adept women dancers of the company that includes Greco’s American-born wife Cristina Godines, Carmela Greco is the featured female solo dancer. Her waist has thickened but her arms alone can charm a full house. It is her face, though, in Arrecife that evokes the universal woman; she is at once mother of all the disappeareds while evoking the mature erotic promise of comfort and humor. A veteran choreographer, performer, and director of her own flamenco company during the 1980s, she complements rather than overpowers this company.
The company charms, but not with the arrogance and chilling disdain affected by so many flamenco characterizations. José Greco II Flamenco Dance Company cultivates a warmth and interaction with its audience, and thereby insinuates the intimacy that one might feel in a crowded nightclub-or even in a smoky, candle-lit cave of gypsies. The audience members who came for the name Greco should have brought their own children. There’s strength of character, timing, and intensity enough for even the internet generation. Plenty of good dancing too.
See also “The Grecos: Dance in the Blood,” March 1999 Dance Magazine.