We have all had fantasies of running away to another time, another culture someplace more romantic, a life full of passionate edginess. With Valentine’s Day approaching I can’t help but contemplate this longing for love. With these musings in the air, I jumped at the chance to see La Pasion Flameca by the Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana dance company.
As the lights dimmed I sat in the theater and marveled at this moment when we let go of our disbelief, but it was not magic I felt as the lights came up on four male musicians in a line of chairs at the back of the stage. It was intimacy.
These musicians will hold the stage the entire evening. They are the substrate that will support the dance. The two guitarists and two singers’ one holding a cajón which is a box-shaped percussive instrument will perform the “palos” or songs. The palos are similar to poetry in that they have stanza requirements for the lyrics. The percussion and rhythmic pattern will be held through-out by the guitars, palmas (hand clapping), drumming, encouraging words, and melodies that create a specific style called Flamenco.
One of the men begins to sing, sounding like a cry of angst. With a sudden fury we are entering the dark cave of the heart and upon that threshold and in that darkness we feel our identification with the call of our desires. The singer’s voice is rough and scratchy telling a story in Castilian Spanish. By the quality of the voice alone we know we are witnessing a tradition of music that has been passed down for hundreds of years. So much is left out of the story that we sense a void and inside this void the dance begins to build. By slow even measures we take in the sense of community, the small nodes and gestures ask of the audience to acknowledge this is a dance that will take place within the familiarity of the small troupe just two men and three women dancers.
It starts like a good party, how we hear half sentences, little laughs, expressions melt and reform. We drink in the beauty around us. Relishing and adoring our world. We pair up and spar. Fighting for our terms and relinquishing our losses. The dance is based on percussion of the dancer’s feet to the musical arrangement. It is familiar to tap and Irish line dances. The intensity of the energy is palpable.
The singer and dancer form a relationship and draw from each other creating weighted tension. The body is held very upright and the stillness of even the slightest pause takes your breath away. Every nuance of the dancer is magnified by their sheer focus to the rhythm. The body pulls into the mid-line corralling energy; the percussion of the clapping hands and heels of the performers tells us there is more than this physical form.
Like rapid fire the male encoded prowess of the dance is tightly contained until it explodes with desire for self-expression. The female energy of twirling wrists and shoulder dips serves to temporarily melt the linear tension. To only be constructed again and again. Waves of emotion flood over the dancers faces as we sit looking into the flame of the heart. The audience stirs and a restless strain mounts as the evening comes to a close. People jump up exclaiming bravo!
Stepping out into the night air and looking up at the full moon, I feel extraordinarily alive!