Every now and again, I enjoy going to an event that is completely alien. This past Saturday, I went to see Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca at The New Victory Theater. A dance concert is not alien, nor is going to a concert hall. In that case, what was so different?

With each type of concert hall comes a certain form of behavior. Conduct is connected to performances as well as venue. Examples:

Metallica at the Orange County Fairgrounds
No seats. A heavy-metal concert the also featured Suicidal Tendencies. Everyone was jumping around, banging into one another. People sang along with songs, screamed requests, smoked, drank, etc…

Peter Serkin at Carnegie Hall
Everyone sits quietly listening as a lone pianist tackles Beethoven’s Hammerklavier. You could hear when his shoe scraped the floor. A cell phone going off in the middle of this would be like a shotgun blast. Audience members even attempted to stifle their coughs.

The Bad Plus at the Village Vanguard
The audience is quiet, but there is the occasional clink of a glass, the sound of a waitress taking an order. After a solo, everyone cheers. If the solo is especially good, the cheers go on for a little bit.

Savion Glover at the Joyce
Another relatively quiet audience, but there are cheers after individual dancers take a turn (solo). The Joyce is a concert hall, so there are no waitresses.

Noche Flamenca was something of a conglomeration of all these experiences. Since I was in a concert hall I expect, “Sit quietly. Clap after solos.” Nope. I quickly became aware that I was in for a new type of concert when I heard individual shouts of “Ole!”, “Como?”, and other questions and exclamations in a foreign language at various interval throughout the show. Not only were these shouts coming from the audience, but from the performers… and not only during and after solos! I was stunned. The feel of the concert changed. The fourth wall that generally exists was lowered. It made everything more personal.

While the New Victory Theater is a concert hall, it is very intimate. There is not much distance between the back of the theater and the stage. I was in the fifth row, so I was very close to the stage. It would be very difficult for anyone to feel disconnected from the performers on the stage.

Three dancers, two guitarists, and two cantors (singers) were featured in various groupings. One number had everyone on stage. There was a solo with one dancer, one guitarists, and both cantors. Another was two dancers, two guitarists, and a single cantor. There was even a piece that simply featured the cantor by himself. There were no intermissions and the show lasted a little under 90 minutes.

One solo by Manuel Reyes left me stunned. Titled De Aqui, De Alli, De Hoy, De Ayer, it was he, a guitarist, and two cantors. As I explained to my girlfriend after the show, as an accompanist, I will usually pick out a couple dancers in the class to follow during certain movements. It’s not because they are the tallest, shortest, or even necessarily the best dancers. There is something about them that makes their movements easy to follow. Somehow, they attract your eye and it is easy to figure out what they are attempting to convey. Each movement is sure, not always correct, but certain. Reyes appears to be one of these people. It was truly incredible to see him move through the jumps, taps, stomps, scrapes of the foot, claps on the body, finger snaps, flourishes, pauses, breaks, stops, starts, etc… I could probably watch him do the Chicken Dance all night and it would be awesome.

The whole evening was fierce. Unlike many other dances I’ve seen, these dancers are not smiling or locked into one expression. They look determined, pained, tough, and intense. Sometimes, there is an expression of sorrow, but even that is replaced by some form of fiery gaze. Each piece had time, and tempo changes, shifts in mood and meter. There are pauses, stops, shouts, and solos. Sometimes, I had trouble keeping up, so I just sat back and enjoyed instead of trying to figure out where they were going next.

A very worthwhile show. Check it out.

Additional Links:
Soldad Barrio Noche Flamenca on youtube
Emilio Florido on youtube
Eugenio Iglesias on myspace