“Tattooed” A Three Flamenco Artist Triumph, Presidio Theatre, October 5

7 Oct

The audience on October 5 filled two thirds of the Presidio Theatre for one of the
most amazing, moving and effective flamenco productions I have ever seen.
Thanks to Dancers’ Group’s October In Dance, I was aware of the inaugural performance of Sintonia Dance’s Tattooed October 3-5 at the newly-renovated Theatre in the Presidio, featuring Fanny Ara, Marina Elana and guest artist Yaelisa. The inaugural performance of Sintonia Dance was such I could have seen all three evenings and lobbied for more.

Presidio Theatre is the former movie house for the one-time U.S. Army base, remodeled with a $30,000,000 gift by the Margaret Haas Fund. Vacant since 1995, the renovation of the 600-seat theater provides both a warm ambiance and clearly state-of-the art technical facilities. Tattooed was a worthy event in its inaugurating fall programs. Any regrets harbored are those of a frustrated, monolingual dance lover.

Facilitating this remarkable feat of theatre were stage director Jose Maldonado, and four musicians; Matias Lopez, “El Mati”, singer; David Chupete, percussion, Ernesto Briceno, Violin, and Gonzalo Grau, piano, keyboards and the quartet’s musical director.

With musicians masked behind a scrim, only illuminated at key moments, the three artists used the full front of the stage, an area backstage center and left to dance stories of desolation, angst and anger. The trio appeared together before commencing their solos;  Marina, small, fragile; Ara, slender, brooding; Yaelisa, statuesque, thoughtful.

Starting with Marina, she darted from stage right to left, frantically trying to escape, arms sometimes flaying, sometimes clutching her body in her moments standing stark still where her taconeo rang out abruptly, insistently, stopping as she faced the insult delivered on her body. She divested herself of her olive coat, and, continued her rage pugnaciously. Throughout, her headlong responses were passionate assertions of worthy  protest, just as her flamenco facility, arms and taconeo demonstrated prime examples of the best of the style.

Fanny Ara, in black tunic and trousers, dark hair slightly obscuring her face, was met downstage center by Matias Lopez, “El Mati,” who sang to her in phrases ending with his right heel striking the stage boards hard. It was here that my ignorance left me helpless, just as Ara cringed, lay prone on the stage, her body convulsed by El Mati’s singing voice and strident heel emphasis.

On to the stage come Marina and Yaelisa, Marina chattering like a bird, Yaelisa making consoling sounds. They help Ara on to her feet, propping her sagging posture, and Marina places a red flower in Ara’s hair, Yaelisa drapes a figured oblong cloth around her hips and then Marina places a fan in the right hand, unfurling it and raising Ara’s  right arm in a salutary position. Ara sways, and is steadied, encouraged. She breaks into a ghastly grin, takes a few conventional steps in this conventional posture before collapsing. Marina and Yaelisa gather Ara up from the floor and try to get her going again. Ara dances a little and then flings all the props away from her wildly, causing her confreres to retreat.

She sprawls on the floor, alone, and, slowly, gathers herself together, and stands up, proceeding to deliver a thundering cacophony of protest. Ara then slowly picks up the discarded props, cloth flung one direction, rose upstage, and finally the fan, moving towards stage right.

Yaelisa, in a floor length gown, mingled yellows and brown to create an earthy emphasis, cradles a near black fabric as if it was some beloved creature, a child, a pet, as her face responds to the movements of the unseen creature. She cradles it, brings it forward to her face, lies on the floor with it at her side, protectively. Then anxiety pervades Yaelisa’s face. She shakes the creature slightly, holds it carefully, warily watching it until she registers it is no more and, in a devastating gesture, shakes the cloth out to its basis oblong form. Her taconeo is minimal in comparison to Ara  and Marina, but still definite, conveying mourning in its sound.

Ara and Marina emerge from stage right to comfort Yaelisa. There is a brief, but profound acknowledgment of the three; they stand, facing the audience, as the lights slowly darken and obscure their trio, fateful presence.

To say the audience approved is absurd. The ovation was immediate, standing, vociferous, prolonged. The dancers brought on the musicians – more demonstration. I found Carlos Carvajal who had found a seat in the center orchestra in tears.

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