Review: ‘Reditum’ at GALA Hispanic Theatre Flamenco Festival

Dancer José Barrios Brings Sorrow, Passion, and Sweat to the GALA Theatre’s Flamenco Festival

No more than ten minutes into Reditum – a Flamenco dance performance by José Barrios and Company, at the GALA Hispanic Theatre on Friday night – the man of the hour is drenched in sweat.

José Barrios in Reditum at the GALA Hispanic Theatre's Flamenco Festival. Photo by Rafa Casado.
José Barrios in Reditum at the GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Flamenco Festival. Photo by ArcosVisuales.

Barrios, who choreographed, directed, and starred in the show, ought to be. As the only dancer in the nearly 90-minute show – which also featured vocalists Caridad Vega and Sara Coréa, guitarist and musical director Isaac Muñoz, violinist Víctor Pitarch, and percussion from Luis Dorado – Barrios dominated the stage, his movements at times evoking violence, other times grace.

Flamenco, a traditional Spanish form of dance, song, and music, is remarkably nimble in assimilating gestures of both power and delicacy, and Reditum swerved back and forth between moments of overwhelming force and then, suddenly, breathing out, becoming weightless and sprightly.

Singers Vega and Coréa seesawed from notes of pain into ones of firm resolve, transcending moments of sorrow and wrenching from them a renewed vigor. Amid cheers of “ole,” from the audience, Barrios’ vigorous footwork, feet clashing like cymbals into the floor, would at times break through Vega and Coréa’s powerful singing into a cathartic crest, lending the performance a certain barroom energy as the band would pick up steam in time with his runaway feet, letting out whatever the Spanish equivalent of hoots and hollers are.

It is impossible to overstate how forceful, how violent Barrios’ stomping was on what we were told is a special “flamenco floor,” which was thoroughly scuffed by the end of the performance. Circling the stage like a bruised, victorious boxer, Barrios affected both machismo and, in turn, a certain lithe elegance that belied his boxy frame and Roman jawline.

José Barrios in Reditum at the GALA Hispanic Theatre's Flamenco Festival. Photo by Rafa Casado.
José Barrios in Reditum at the GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Flamenco Festival. Photo by Rafa Casado.

40 minutes into the show and Barrios is really sweating now, windmilling his arms, and when he spins and pliés it rains like a lawn sprinkler. Each thrust of the head is sweat release valve, each saunter over to a band-member an ecstatic exchange of dripping salinity.

Sensuality was ever present too, boiling over from subtext to surface in moments where Barrios would stalk over to Vega or Coréa, contort his face like Bernini’s Saint Theresa, and drape his hands along her face, writhing as if as resisting a windswept magnetic pull; at one point my friend leaned over and whispered, “he’s a stud.”

Flamenco’s roots are generally traced to the Romani people of Andalusia in southern Spain sometime during the Middle Ages, and Reditum’s virtuosic vocalists brought to mind forceful Romani singers like Romica Puceanu, while the guitar playing and violin echoed the music of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

The Spanish word “reditum” means return, but also implies a restoration or something cyclical, like a harvest or planetary orbit. For Barrios, it was a literal return to the Gala Theatre, where he performed in 2007, 2010, and 2011, as part of a tour with the Boston Flamenco Ballet. Here’s hoping that Barrios and company cycle back to the GALA again soon.

The Fourteenth International Flamenco Festival continues through November 18 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th Street, NW, Washington DC 20010. For tickets, call 202-234-7174 or go online.

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