A full house greeted me as I took my seat at the trendy Gala Hispanic Theatre for an exciting evening of Flamenco: Territorio DeMente, part of Fuego Flamenco VIII. A Flamenco virgin, I was mystified during my first exposure to this powerful form of dance fused with live music and choreographed brilliantly by Karen Lugo. Passion. Intensity. Fun. I wanted to run onstage and dance, clap, and sing along. With the way the musicians, singers, dancers and lighting all worked together, I felt like I was in Spain ready to party. Audience members can even bring their beverages in, and the aroma of margaritas in the air was quite enticing.
Let’s start with the opening. Musicians David Durán (guitar), Bettina Flater (guitar), and Víctor Guadiana (violin) play upstage with singers Loreto de Diego and Naike Ponce, surrounded by low blue lighting (by Lighting Designer Andrew Dorman) on a bare black stage equipped with the Flamenco floor. The lights change to warm gold as Ponce and de Diego sing soulfully and with such bold, strong voices as Durán and Flater play their guitars with impressively quick finger-picking and Guadiana plays the violin perfectly; it’s all heartfelt and professional at the same time.
Enter Karen Lugo and José Maldonado in velvety burgundy attire to dance Olas (Tangos). Keeping their gazes upon the horizon, they dance with strong intention and use their bodies for percussion, as the singers clap and keep rhythm too. One of the things that impressed me most was how much precision and specificity of rhythm they had, every part of their bodies moved.
There were two tremendous solos during the evening that I just have to mention. Maldonado dances Endorfinas, which was so hot I was surprised the women in the audience didn’t hop up to wipe the sweat off his body. His feet move at lightning speeds and he has a great time engaging the audience and the musicians. They keep playing faster and faster as he keeps going and going. Amazing.
Lugo dances Detalles (Guajira) and she is strong, fierce, exquisite. She begins at a small dressing table as she pins her hair in a lovely style and then progresses through a series of movements and emotions that left me breathless. Her dynamic rhythms are impressive, as she flows from intense choreography to quick movements, striking poses, and back again. The use of lighting was particularly effective in enhancing the mood here, as a square spotlight illuminated her at times, a round at others, and bright warm light as she grew with power. (Side note: the square spotlights are also intermittently used to highlight the musicians throughout the performance, which I likened to windows and sunlight. Very clever!)
Maldonado and Lugo also share an intimate dance, Reto (Compás), in which Lugo is adorned in a stunning figure-fitting gown with a long train she whips around the stage like a pro, at times it becomes her partner, others her enemy. It was just superb. I heard a plethora of gasps from audience members admiring her stunning appearance upon her entrance. Maldonado is enticed by Lugo in this dance, enveloped in the ruffled skirt of her dress.
As an integral part of Flamenco, the musicians and singers were featured during the evening. Guadiana plays the violin with such speed and accuracy, taking flight during his solo Movimiento (Tanguillos), that the audience let out several expressions of “wow!” during his performance and cheered vigorously when it came to an end. The encore performance was relaxed and everyone let loose. Flater sets aside her guitar and dances with a light heart.
What a great time! You will enjoy Flamenco: Territorio DeMente! It’s an experience you don’t want to miss! I can’t wait to go back!
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Flamenco: Territorio DeMente plays through November 18, 2012 at Gala Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th St NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online, or call the box office at (202) 234‑7174, or 800-494-8497.