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Dance review: Jose Porcel’s ‘Gypsy Fire’ burns bright

Saturday, November 12, 2011
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— A note in the Compania Flamenca Jose Porcel program described flamenco as an art that “gives its spectators an overwhelming sensation of happiness, a joyful and sensual mood that no other form of dance is capable of evoking.”

That feeling might be what the dancers and musicians experienced, but that was only a sliver of what the audience felt during an evening of flamenco on Thursday night at The Egg. There, Jose Porcel and his band of musicians, singers and dancers offered spectators the usual drama incited by flamenco, tinged with angst, sorrow and unmet desire. But mostly Compania Flamenca Jose Porcel’s “Gypsy Fire” peddled passion for the ancient art.

Appreciating the mystery and emotion inherent in flamenco can be difficult for the average soul. The art is an acquired taste and is best appreciated by those who were born into it.

Dynamic presence

Yet if there lives an artist who might inspire the masses to throw themselves at the feet of the flamenco gods, it would be Porcel.

A tall, comely man, he first appeared on The Egg stage in the solo “The Tribute.” Wearing a decorative bullfighter’s waistcoat, he stood in striking profile. Though frozen, he vibrated power. As he raised his arms slowly, his wrists rotating to the percussive music and one heel of his patent leather shoes perched above the floor, he was in full command.

His movements were sharp — snapping his head back and forth and slamming his feet into the board with a speed and assault that honored the sextet’s rhythms. After each wild display, with his hair flying, he turned his back on the audience as if he were going to walk away. Then he twirled, knifelike, back to the crowd — facing them head-on, as if daring them to breathe.

In this solo, as in his title piece, “Gypsy Fire,” he became soaked in sweat. Tossing aside his tie and jacket in the second solo, he was a man consumed by a force larger than life. And as he aggressively laid down his zapateados, he smiled. Porcel obviously discovered joy in his artistic compulsion.

While Porcel was the heart of the evening, ensemble dances with synchronized and emotive choreography graced most of the bill. The evening opened with “Profound Dance,” in which the lights came up on the seven dancers poised regally on stools. Dressed in warm earth tones, the dancers thrust themselves forward and in circles, celebrating what was to come.

Pleasant sight

The most beautiful of group dances featured a quartet of women kicking up their ruffled long-trained skirts while displaying large fringed shawls and then chattering their castanets. Their intricate movement layered with the gorgeous costumes was a pleasant sight.

The musical ensemble, with two guitars, percussionist, flutist and singers, was sensitive to the goings-on, especially with Porcel — following his improvisational lead with a keen receptivity.

There were two unsettling things about Compania Flamenca. The female singer, Rocio Soto, was, at times, out of tune with her fellow musicians. And one female dancer, in each ensemble work, was dressed as a man to balance out the surplus of women. The latter was especially distracting.

Other than that, Porcel’s “Gypsy Fire” burned bright.

 
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