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Lewis J Whittington
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World Cafe Live
United States
Philadelphia, PA

Pasión Y Arte's An Evening of Flamenco a Transporting Experience

by Lewis J Whittington
November 22, 2016
World Cafe Live
3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Continuing a festive café atmosphere of dance, music and community, dancer-choreographer Elba Hevia y Vaca’s troupe Pasión y Arte presented the Flamenco tablao An Evening of Flamenco. The one night only performance in front of a standing room only crowd on Nov. 18 at popular Philly music venue, The World Café Live, is the latest in a long line of seasonal performances that have attracted bigger audiences every time out.

Hevia y Vaca’s frequent dance partners Alexa Miton and Xianix Barrera were joined by guest dancers Sara Candela and dancer/vocalist Barbara Martinez. Also onstage were regular Pasión y Arte musician collaborators, cantor Hector Jose Martinez and composer-guitarist Raphael Brunn- both virtuosos- were back and this concert was exemplar of how the music and dance components were indelibly equal artistically.

"Bulerias" choreographed by Hevia y Vaca with original score by Brunn, as the title hints, is a framework for free-form interpretive flamenco dancing. The dancers posed on cabaret chairs and as the meditative guitar started to become more expressive, each dancer rose and danced adagio phrases and signature moves. The section finished with Hevia y Vaca, lunging forward with her arms back, as if frozen in flight. The women swirled around each other in a liberated dance communal then locked in with pulsing ensemble unison patterns, a preview of the fiery vocabulary yet to come.

But the men first played a musical interlude, "Malaguena" a guitar, percussion and vocal by Brunn and Hector Martinez that brought the house down. Marquez’s passionate Cantoral verses crashing down to the classic afillá (visceral rasp) in a song of joy and anguish, all the while Brunn’s unpaused guitar accompaniment engulfed the room.

Among other narratives and motifs, Pasión y Arte celebrated the feminist ideals. The dancers could be flirty, sexual and witty with their bodies in traditional flamenco personas but with contemporary themes. It was an intoxicating, romantic, empowering and an utterly transporting experience.

"Solea" was choreographed and danced by Xianix Barrera dressed in a midnight blue Flamenco gown. She partnered a majestic manton (fringed shawl) which she wielded like a matador’s cape in swoops and swirls, letting it coil around her body as she finished a dance phrase. As Barrera's dance persona intensified, her classic flamenco moves become more intricate as did her individual expressiveness. Barrera’s signature sensuality, a manifesto written in the fused Flamenco vocabulary.

Barbara Martinez’s voice ranged from silvery upper ranges to mezzo sonorous, during which she moved from the microphone to the middle of the floor for her solo dance interludes (also titled "Bulerias") and her physicality more minimal, but lyrically more expressive.

Martinez's voice soared on "Solea por Bulerias" (composed by Brunn) during Alexa Miton's solo. Martinez sang a ballade of ‘tormentor’ as Miton's stoic entrance gave way to her volcanic command of the room.

Miton variations of traditional flamenco patterns with head bowed showcased precision turns, dramatic arrests and sweeps across the stage that hypnotized. But it was her percussive footwork that drove the crowd wild, smashing atoms as she glided over the floor.

An excerpt of a larger work under development, the Hevia y Vaca choreographed closing dance "Alegrias," had a joyous theme with the motif of dancers as warriors and protectors.

The dancers were doubly impressive because the troupe was performing on a cement stage with only a thin veneer, not the best floor for percussion dance. Also an issue, the floor didn’t spike or resonate the sound of their Flamenco designed pumps and boots as it would have on a standard dance stage. But without pause, the dancers nonetheless burned that cold floor with thrilling artistry.
Alexa Miton

Alexa Miton

Photo © & courtesy of Mike Hurwitz

Photo © & courtesy of Mike Hurwitz

Photo © & courtesy of Mike Hurwitz

Photo © & courtesy of Mike Hurwitz

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