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Forever Flamenco!

by Rachel Levin
February 19, 2008
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323-663-1525
First and Third Sundays of every month
Tickets $23-$30 (Student rush w/ ID $18)
It was a chilly night by L.A. standards, but the café above the Fountain Theatre teemed with warmth: hot tapas, soul-warming sangria, and a bohemian crowd buzzing with anticipation for the night's flamenco line-up. At 10 pm on a Sunday evening (an unusually late show on the eve of President's Day), it felt more like Seville than Silverlake.

The theatre's ongoing Forever Flamenco series, now in its fifth year, continues to infuse Los Angeles with the vibrancy of authentic flamenco and a rotating roster of accomplished performers. Other venues, like El Cid, may feature more frequent shows, but the producers at the Fountain have taken care to keep the productions spare, eschewing the Disneyland-like theatricality that can bog down other flamenco displays. In the intimate, low-ceilinged space, the stage recalled a café in Andalucia, with nothing but a simple dance floor and the dancers and musicians seated in a semicircle around it.

This particular night, guitarrista Antonio Triana and cajon (percussionist) Gerardo Morales accompanied cantaor (singer) Vicente Griego. Griego in every way looks the part, with his shaggy hair and corpulent girth. His bellowing voice and playful teasing (he told Antonio to "play good") set the mood for the arrival of the evening's dancers: Lakshmi Basile, Clara Catalina, Timo Nunez, and Briseyda Zarate.

Lakshmi, considered by many to be the purest Gypsy style flamenco dancer currently in the United States, began the program by dancing alegrias. Dressed in cobalt and turquoise, she peppered calm, cool hip swings with sudden bursts of strong footwork, a shadow of a sly smile brightening her face throughout. Later, after a costume change into an all-red ensemble, she also danced a soleá, often hitting on the contratiempo and even lending her raspy voice to the song.

Clara, a long, lean dancer who for some reason put me in mind of Jennifer Lopez, danced a soleá por buleria, using the impressive extension of her arms to accent the intensity and anger of this particular 12-beat compas.

Timo, a striking man (who will incidentally be playing Don Juan in the theatre's upcoming performance of "Don Juan in L.A.") with a statuesque presence, danced a buleria por soleá. His "wingspan" is so mighty that when he lifted his arms, he grazed the house lights. Though the other dancers called him "el guapo," Timo offered more than just good looks; his zigzag footwork was substantive and lightening fast.

The standout of the evening was Briseyda Zarate, a tour de force with a decade of experience. The blunt sounds of her footwork revealed an incredible strength. She danced tientos with an appropriately furrowed brow. Her emotion is measured; you can see it smoldering under the surface until she releases it in a controlled fury of spinning and snapping.

After the show, the café remained open so that the performers could mingle with the audience. It's this casual, collegial spirit that keeps Forever Flamenco so genuine and so appealing to those seeking a little slice of Spain in their backyard.

Photo © & courtesy of Bruce Bisenz


Photo © & courtesy of Bruce Bisenz


Photo © & courtesy of Bruce Bisenz

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