Soledad Barrio has rightfully received glowing notices for her current production Entre Tu y Yo at the Connelly Theater (a beautiful repurposed opera house), but it is the joyful energy of the entire cast of Noche Flamenca, her troupe, which has risen exponentially to her demanding level. The interaction among the singers (Manuel Gago, Emilio Florido, Carmina Cortes), the musicians (Salve de Maria, Eugenio Iglesias, David Rodriguez) and dancers (Antonio Rodriguez, Jasiel Sierra, Marina Elana, Soledad) is both playful and heartfelt, a true tonic in these dark and twisted times.
Soledad’s Solea, the final palo, is one of her signature dances, and is always perfection. But it is in her duet with Elana that flamenco is newly relevant. Though Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde is credited as being the inspiration for this series of duets and trios in the program, this vignette jumped out immediately as being a riff on Ingmar Bergman’s film Persona. Sure enough, artistic director Martin Santangelo, the co-choreographer of the piece with Soledad, confirmed that this segment indeed sprang from their watching the film over and over again and being touched by the haunting images of the two women in dialogue with each other and with themselves. What do we see in the mirror? The film reminds us that the role of carer and patient, of language and silence, of identity itself, is fluid and malleable.
What better form to capture these complex themes than flamenco? One of the first things a flamenco student learns is the simple—but technically challenging— ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the rotation of the hand and fingers. Each finger must be articulated as the wrist leads the way. The choice of whether to go ‘in’ or ‘out’ can be a choreography but also an emotion. It would not be stretching it to say that each movement of this intricate discipline seems to have an equal and opposite force. Soledad—also an exacting teacher—prizes the compactness of a turn, the full arch of a back, swan-like extension of the arms —and brings these fundamental dualities to the surface in a kindred twinning with Persona. Are we ‘in’ or ‘out’?
It is rare to see such an intimate flamenco dance for two women, and I heard some fellow flamencos referring to it as a ‘lesbian’ dance. Of course everyone is free to interpret as she wishes, but this felt a reductive rendering. The costumes are simple black leatherette pants and silken shirts and this contemporary look coupled with the dancers intricate and intimate engagement with each other stripped away superfluous style. The piece feels absolutely essential.
The production runs through the end of March.
Photos by Elaine Graham and Peter Graham courtesy Noche Flamenca