The Novel Hall 2009 Dance Series wrapped up with a bang this weekend, or rather some thunderous oles for 13-year-old Miguel Fernandez — El Yiyo — and his adult colleagues in New Flamenco Generation.
The theater was packed on Friday night, which should have been no surprise to those who have attended productions by Ballet Tetra Espanola de Rafael Aguilar and other flamenco companies in recent years. There are a lot of flamenco fans in Taipei, thanks to teachers and enthusiasts such as Lien Ho (賀連華), Lee Shin (李昕) and Lin King (林耕).
But given the smaller audiences for the first two events in this year’s dance series, this weekend’s shows must have been a huge relief for Novel Hall staff.
While some audience members were disappointed they weren’t seeing something along the lines of Carmen, the crowd stayed in their seats, clapping for repeated curtain calls at the end of the show. The applause was well earned, for while the youth of “El Yiyo” may be the hook that draws the crowds in, New Flamenco Generation gives each member of the seven-member cast a chance to shine.
There was something for everyone to enjoy, whether you like flamenco guitar, the singing or the dancing. The evening began with a beautiful solo by guitarist Jose Andres Cortez, alone on a blackened stage, lit just by a spotlight. Next the three singers were introduced — Joaquin Gomez (El Duende), Jose Antonio Martin (El Salvo) and Juan Mansion (El Coco) — and while all three men have wonderful voices, it was the power and emotion of El Duende’s singing that carried the night.
The passion and intensity of the three dancers — El Yiyo, his teacher Barolo (Manuel Jimenez) and Yolanda Cortez —
was wonderful to watch, though each were very different. It was fascinating to see the interplay between each dancer and
Cortez was pure smoldering passion, the kind that can lead to suicidal plunges or knife fights, with long looks out into the audience that drew people into her world. Barolo’s passion, on the other hand, was more inwardly focused — though that could be because his flowing hair often obscured his face. His graceful, almost liquid hand movements counterbalanced the power in his steps.
He has passed those wonderful hand gestures on to El Yiyo, for it was the youngster’s arms and hands that I noticed more than his footwork, at least at first. Having seen many young dancers perform over the years, I was struck by El Yiyo’s poise and self-command on stage, though every so often he seemed close to losing control over his explosive footwork. One can only hope that he will never outgrow his love for flamenco because he offers such promise for years to come.
Audiences in southern Taiwan have two chances to see New Flamenco Generation. The group performs tonight at 7:30pm at Pingtung County Art Center (屏東縣藝術館), 427, Heping Rd, Pingtung City (屏東市和平路427號) and tomorrow at 7:30pm at Chiayi Performing Arts Center (嘉義縣表演藝術中心), 265, Jianguo Rd Sec 2, Minsyong Township, Chiayi County (嘉義縣民雄鄉建國路二段265號).
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