Dallas — When I spoke with the artistic director of Orchestra of New Spain about their organization and the Rise of Flamenco program that would soon after be opening at the Moody Performance Hall, he touched on the need for more awareness and support of Hispanic and Latin art here in the Metroplex. Now, after having attended the performance, I would like to add that any lack of support or recognition for this genre is not only a missed opportunity, but a veritable shame.
Rise of Flamenco was a thoughtful collaboration of artistic disciplines—corporal, aural, and visual in nature—and a collaboration of artistic organizations: the Orchestra of New Spain, led by founder and artistic director Grover Wilkins; the Yjastros Flamenco Company of the National Institute of Flamenco, under the leadership of artistic director Joaquin Encinias; guest choreographer and soloist Daniel Doña along with soloist Cristian Martin; and Mexican visual artist Juan Carlos del Valle.
Opening with a lone Baroque guitar, the stage was minimally set, with a riser far up stage left for the musicians. The use of space is visually effective as del Valle’s projections provided a brilliantly expressive backdrop.
The instrumentation for this program was effective as well. Stepping away from their tradition of fastidious historical authenticity to baroque performance and practices, ONS incorporated both early music and modern interpretations into their playing in order to produce a sound that was fluid, expressive, and engaged on Spanish baroque guitars and strings. Whether serving as accompaniment for the dancers or featuring for an instrumental number, the musicians in this concert demonstrated a marked awareness of style and genre that breathed a fundamental energy into the night’s progression.
The concert also saw other layers of musical expression. In addition to fiery acoustic accompaniment, the troupes utilized recordings, synthesized and electronic music, and of course, the percussive power of the body, which marks one of the alluring characteristics of Flamenco itself.
Drawing its roots back to southern Spain, Flamenco is an artform that manifests itself through not only dance, but also in singing and vocalization, playing, and percussive treatment. The Yjastros Flamenco Company contributed all three elements to this production with ample amounts of style and finesse. Never before had I seen such a brilliant concentration of power, sensuality, and vulnerability in a single display. Their group routines flowed with cohesion and pointed artistry, punctuated with moments of passion and expression.
In other numbers, Doña and Martin commanded the stage with a moving musical narrative. These men brought a delicate edge to the performance that called upon more modern interpretations of the artform, incorporating ballet and contemporary dance into their routines. The structure gave way to a perceived story arch, characterized by power, intensity, and sentimentality.
Throughout the evening, cries of “Olé!” and “Anda!” rose from the audience in encouragement and enthusiastic approval for the art on display—a true and organic testament to the ways in which such a program reaches into the community. It was a collaborative effort that I found to be especially striking, and more to the point, a compelling celebration of culture and tradition.