New World Flamenco Festival

August 8, 2006

New World Flamenco Festival
Savion Glover and Yaelisa

Irvine Barclay Theatre, Irvine, CA

August 8-9, 2006

Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf

Yaelisa and Savion Glover at the New World Flamenco Festival

Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, courtesy Irvine Barclay Theatre



Talk about squandered opportunities! The buzz on this year’s New World Flamenco Festival, a staple in Southern California since 2000, was the cross-cultural pairing of Yaelisa, the festival’s artistic director and a dance diva in her own right, with the reigning guru of tap, Savion Glover. On paper the notion was intoxicating, the promise of smoldering rhythms venturing into uncharted improvisatory waters nothing less than delectable.

Unfortunately, onstage the brash experiment called “Sin Fronteras” (“Without Borders”)proved underwhelming, with the duo rarely finding common ground. Which isn’t to say there weren’t moments of unfettered brilliance (most of them from Glover), as well as a fine solo from dancer Andres Pera, an edgy performer whose quicksilver footwork and effortless multiple turns astonished in an array of unpredictably explosive jumps.

Had he and Glover traded riffs, this fusion no doubt would have generated some real fireworks. Instead we were left with admirable intentions but odd choices. Dancing to taped music of Miles Davis, Saeta, Glover, in a suit jacket, tapped up a storm while Yaelisa was left in the proverbial dust. More of a distraction, she assumed flamenco posturing, swirling her arms in mannered gesticulations, while he, circling around her backwards, unleashed a fusillade of mind-boggling taps.

Their second solo, also to taped music (by Da Lata), did yield concurrent solos, but there was never a melding of styles, never an “Ah!” moment when their visions coalesced. Even in Yaelisa’s solo to Dave Brubeck’s, “Kathy’s Waltz,” the dancer, who earlier in the program oozed command with intricate steps and sharp attacks, looked out of her element trying to be loose limbed and smiley faced. It was only in the finale, with crack guitar accompaniment by music director Jason McGuire “El Rubio,” Juan Manuel Moneo, and Domingo Rubichi, and singers Manuel de la Malena and Luis Moneo, that Glover, dancing on a platform, demonstrated his dazzling capacity to get down with the music, in this case lush flamenco sounds. Launching a jackhammer-like series of steps, this was a combustible blend of passion, joy, and killer technique that indeed revealed a truly New World. See