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Jack Anderson

Flamenco Without Frills

Miguel Peña Vargas, known as El Funi.

Arte y Pureza Flamenco Company
Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, Tribeca
Oct. 10, 2007 (closed)
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, Oct. 12, 2007

Flamenco is music, as well as dance. That was one message of "Maestría" by the Arte y Pureza Flamenco Company of Seville. There were no fancy production numbers, no bits of showbiz glitz. This was flamenco without frills. Seven performers simply appeared to be friends assembling to dance, sing, and play the guitar. They did all that quite well and without haste, insinuating their way into theatergoers' hearts, rather than walloping the audience with socko effects.

Although many Americans expect flamenco presentations to focus on dancing, music dominated the first act of "Maestría," which began with "Dos Guitarras por Tarantas," in which Antonio Moya and Ethan Margolis, the group's director, appeared to be conversing with their guitar playing, which was usually ruminative in tone.

The show's male star, the veteran flamenco artist Miguel Peña Vargas, known as El Funi, offered two songs, "Seguiriyas" and "Soleá de Maria Peña." Wearing a blue suit with a white scarf, draped over it, he sang soulfully, snaring attention with his intense concentration, rather than with vocal tantrums; his star power transcended exhibitionism.

Cihtli Ocampo, known as La Gallardi

The first act did have its dancing, an "Alegrías" by Cihtli Ocampo, known as La Gallardi, which began in an unhurried manner, then gradually gained power until, after letting her long train swirl around her, she shook off her shawl and raised her skirts to display crisp joyous footwork.

The second act merged music and dance. In "La Pareja por Bulerías," Fabiola Perez and Javier Heredia carried on a lively discourse during which they both sang and danced, and when they faced each other while moving and singing, the confrontation suggested a contest of wills.

"Soleá" found La Gallardi seated, listening to the musicians until their sounds inspired her to rise in bursts of steps separated by pauses as taut as her strong kicks and strides.

El Fuñi, who offered "Cantiñas de Pinini" and "Bulerías," also began by sitting among the musicians while singing. When he danced, he let arm gestures and footwork punctuate his vocal phrases, thereby uniting sound and movement.

The concluding "Fin de Fiesta" brought everyone together in songs, dances, and guitar playing.

The program's overall feeling of warmth might have been intensified if the troupe had appeared in a more intimate space than this one, a comfortable but sizable theater sometimes used by classical ballet and folkloric dance companies. And although the forest of microphones on stage did not spoil the traditional art of Arte y Pureza, it surely diluted its purity.


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