Theatre Flamenco at Fort Mason’s Southside Theater, November 14

29 Nov

This ensemble is celebrating its 47th season with the aid of singer Jose Cortes, guitarist Jose Luis Rodriguez, bassist Sasha Jacobsen, the regulars Carola Zertuche, artistic director, Christina Hall with Morten Luevano as guest artists, appearing in Con Nombre y Apellido, asking the question “Why do I dance?”

Though I voice concerns regarding the staging, the dedication to Ernesto Hernandez, the late, memorable flamenco artist who died this past summer, was timely and touching. As I write, his image rises into mind’s eye with his clear pitos, a red polka dot shirt and black trousers, head slightly inclined, clicking his way through an intricate or fast paced taconeo. I was relieved when he chose flamenco over the San Francisco Contemporary Dancers; he and we were very much the richer for it.

With a platform largely bare; those in the middle seats saw the dressing room exit. Lighting, images and two scrims as flies at stage edge were necessary to compensate for the square footage constraints. I give Carola Zertuche full marks for the skill and ingenuity she employed as compensation though the results diminished the dancing impact. She abided by the decisions of Ricardo Rubio, her co-artistic director for scenic design and script, and Fermin Martinez who governed the sound and multi-media design.

I’m afraid the overall effect visually was too busy; lights in the dancers’ palms; two scrims on either side of the proscenium provided background for vintage photos of flamenco life or Spanish café gatherings. Flickering too fast, the images jammed each other on the scrims voiding appreciation. The lighting and sound intruded, rather than lending ambiance for the dance; that is, unless the object was to show flamenco, like other dance forms, has struggled against technical invasions in formerly personal, imaginative space. (I am extremely picky about what I allow into my fantasy life; and, by extension, into performances. Mine is not the gourmand visual or aural capacity.)

Jose Cortes and Jose Luis Rodriguez provided an anchor in all this shifting of lights, images and text, a beacon of tradition for the three women who exchanged minimal changes of costumes three times. As the newcomer, Morten Luevano is a woman strongly built, direct in appeal; absorbed in her execution, she engaged me with her sincerity. She has tension problems in her upper back, but promises future depths of expression. Zertuche danced her usual well-placed centrality in the program, generously providing space for Luievano and Christina Hall, whose blonde delicacy continues to interest the viewer with the seeming contradictory demands of flamenco expression.

Given this year’s location limits, I hope Theatre Flamenco’s next season will return to Cowell Theatre and a new theme in its venerable performance history.

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