Dance Program “Gypsy Fire” Flickers on Stage

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At times dance can be breathtaking. Watching dancers perform on a stage, as they feel the music and reflect the beats with their movements, almost as if the motion and the rhythm are inseparable, can make your heart leap or send chills up your spine.

When it comes to flamenco, the dynamic dance that is grounded in a rich cultural tradition of the Andalusian Gypsies of southern Spain seems synonymous with the word “passion”.

Watching the production becomes an experience rather than an observation of a show. Flamenco dance typically hits a level of such emotional intensity that you nearly fall into a trance and become enveloped in the sounds of Spanish guitar and the swirling images before you.

Unfortunately, this was not the feeling I got from watching Compañia Flamenca José Porcel perform at the Quick Center last Saturday evening.

Rather than experiencing the shiver-inducing performance that flamenco typically yields, I felt myself cringe throughout most of the two-hour long performance entitled “Gypsy Fire.”

With the exception of José Porcel himself, who danced a notable solo act and a decent improvised routine, the rest of the dancers were, for lack of a better word, awkward.

The troop was made up of Porcel, who is the choreographer, four women dancing the female parts, two men dancing male parts, and one woman who dressed in traditional male flamenco costume and danced the male part along with the three other men.

I assume that the swap of gender roles on the part of this dancer was done in an effort to provide a partner for each dancer.

The female performer who danced the male part was, besides Porcel, probably the best dancer on stage.

She executed the moves naturally and smoothly without hesitation and appeared to be responding to the music rather than running through a choreographed routine, more so than any of the other dancers under Porcel’s lead.

While I am not by any means a connoisseur in the art of flamenco dancing, I have seen quite a few flamenco performances.

From what I have inferred, the roles of both male and female dancers exhibit a balance of fluid poise and a commanding stance of authority.

The difference is that gestures and the way in which the dancers carry themselves is always extremely masculine or feminine depending on the gender role.

Though strong and assertive, the female dancers are always feminine at the core. While graceful, the male dancers always exude masculinity through their posture and movements and the attitudes these reveal.

That being said, this female performer danced a male flamenco dancer’s role perfectly.

She embodied the sense of masculine self-assuredness that should be expressed in the role of the male dancer, and it was interesting to see how she was able to take on this character and execute it to perfection through her stance.

Perhaps because she was able to grasp this attitude so well, she appeared to be the most masculine of the three male roles — which, to be frank, was a little odd.

So exactly had she portrayed the male flamenco dancer’s attitude that the other two paled in comparison seeming weak and disorderly next to her perfect, confident composure.

The only time during the evening that I did feel captivated by the emotion relayed in the dance was during Porcel’s solo.

The years of experience Porcel has from dancing flamenco since the age of 13 were immediately evident when he entered the stage. His act started off slow and composed. Gradually, intensity built up as his dancing became more explosive.

While the music was bursting out of control, Porcel still maintained such poise through his animated movements and the fierce beat made by his shoes and hands, that it built up a tension between the two–composure and fervency– that was indeed stunning.

Porcel’s improvised routine was still emblematic of his skill, but slightly less moving than his choreographed solo performance.

You could see that Porcel was enveloped in the music and clearly felt it, but at times it seemed like he was holding back.

While not the best flamenco I’ve ever seen, all in all the entire performance was entertaining, and at the end of the day any flamenco makes for a good time.

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