Ana Lloris Otero and Amira Brock made Flamenco sparks fly tonight at The Auckland Performing Arts Centre or TAPAC for short as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival. The Festival is self-proclaimed as feistily independent and all about ‘inclusivity, a celebration of otherness and having a dang good time’. This performance certainly ticked the celebration and the dang good category. And to see this kind of dance was pretty unique, Flamenco as an art form doesn’t get a lot of theatre time here in New Zealand. And I”m not talking about an entertaining dance or two in some eatery in Newmarket... actual time for an audience to sit and give the dance their total attention.
This is an astonishingly nuanced art form right down to the fingertips for these two dancers.
Ana Lloris Otero from Spain brought a wealth of international performing experience to the stage having performed extensively in Spain and around the world and worked with many maestros of Flamenco. She was joined by an Auckland performer Amira Brock who has worked with many Flamenco teachers and has performed and taught Flamenco locally for twenty years.
Crucially, tonight the dancers were partnered by two guitarists - Sandy Schock leading the stampede and flourishes with vitality, and Richard Aylett creating detailed fingerpicking and rhythm. Both drove the dances along for most of the programme with only a few breaks where stamping heels and clapping took up the rhythms.
The piece opened with the dancers preparing for the performance. As the guitarists improvised some quiet notes, the dancers added roses to their hair, fixed their shawls and picked up a fan each to begin the evening. This helped us to feel closer to the two women and created a sense of something being created in the present. There must have been many many hours of rehearsal but I would guess a good Flamenco dance needs to have the spontaneity of the moment. The first dance Carcaroles was a flirtation of fans unfurling in a display like two birds of paradise.
The highlights of the night were Otero’s Siguiriyas, dressed in a jet-black costume with sparkling epaulettes as she danced with astonishing stamina and expressive flair in blood-red lighting, accompanied by the biting percussion of castanets.
Also, a beautiful dance called El Zorongo from Brock with arm gestures full of Garcia Lorca’s poetry.
And finally, Otero’s Alegrias danced in a figure-hugging dress of red roses and a choreography of fringed shawl being wrapped around her body... extended like huge wings then abandoned like a lover on the floor.
... this wasn’t merely a technical exposé but an expression of life’s dramas.
These dances describe passion that we all share but our Kiwi reserve doesn’t often allow such unselfconscious expression. Here were two women striking strong poses, chins and chests lifted proudly, staring directly into the audience in a confrontation that life can be harsh but beautiful. It’s astonishingly technical stuff... the footwork alone would make a Riverdancer weep. But, this wasn’t merely a technical exposé but an expression of life’s dramas. All the while, there are exclamations of ‘Olé!” and encouragements from guitarists and the other dancer with hand claps or flamenco palmas to show solidarity for the rhythms.
... the footwork alone would make a Riverdancer weep.
The auditorium temperature had been lowered to ‘chill’ but there was sweat flying on stage and the hottest and most impassioned dancing you could hope for. It was only an hour’s programme that ended with the colourful Bulerias performed by Otero and Brock together …. as the lights came up, an usher had to come in to instruct us to vacate... evidently another programme was to be presented shortly in the same space. In the foyer, there were some exotic audience members arriving... decked out in fantastic gear ready for Lady Lei’s Tainted Nightmare. That’s the fabulous Fringe Festival for ya, go catch some!
Special recognition must go out to TAPAC's Calvin Hudson for lighting design and sound and lighting operator, Tama Curtis.
See the two remaining Love, Life and Dark Energy performances tonight (22 February) and tomorrow night (23 February) at TAPAC, Western Springs in Auckland.
Tickets available at TAPAC.