An old-fashioned black-draped dressing mirror is the only prop in the moody, elemental, but by no means elementary “Fuego Flamenco XVI: Intimo,” presented by GALA Hispanic Theatre. The mirror’s undraping and re-draping bracket the hour-long dance-theater piece by two superb dancers and four accomplished, passionate musicians.
The overall emotional sense of the work is one of life at once defined by death and subverting it. A secondary theme is passion in friction with isolation, as the mirror, upright or rotated vertically, sometimes blocks the dancers’ view of and connection with each other. In the age of Covid-19, those themes are, of course, all too apt and heart-jabbing.
But the piece — flowingly filmed by Blue House Productions at GALA’s 14th-Street theater on December 5 — feels refreshingly un-distanced and immediate. If you are as starved for live dance, music, and theater as I am, may I suggest that you pour yourself a glass of rioja, sit back, and take “Intimo” in during one undistracted streaming (it is available through January 15).
In virtuoso flamenco solo and duo passages, the dancers, Edwin Aparicio and Omayra Amaya, are also the co-directors. They are amazing technicians — their boot-heeled feet can set a rhythm, command attention, and create little earthquakes. They are also supremely graceful — their strong, decisive arms and blade-sharp hand movements defining and ruffling space with eerie authority. And they have wonderful presence, like high-intensity filaments spanning a spectrum from woeful glow to ecstatic blaze. Their pacing quite magically quickens and tapers moments into phrases that erupt, console, chasten, pine, and delight.
Moreover, they are in deep communion with guitarists and musical co-directors Richard Marlow and Roberto Castellon, who play together like one four-handed wizard with a merged musical mind, and percussionists Jose Moreno and Francisco Orozco “Yiyi.” Yiyi, as he is known, is also the work’s vocalist, his powerful, plaintive melodies and encouraging shouted imperatives propelling “Intimo” through its traditional Andalusian lyrics of work and woe. Moreno and Yiyi percuss solely through claps and cajons — little wooden drum boxes with snares inside. Add that to their colleagues’ lightning guitar rhythm strums and the dancers’ forceful footwork, and the sound is thoroughly rousing.
Moody lighting and projections by Christopher Annas-Lee and lovely time-lapse videography of a rose by Ajay Chaudhary further enhance the atmosphere of “Intimo.”
“I can’t do it anymore, I am losing strength,” is the translation of one of the songs. “…I cannot even finish singing. … that’s why I am singing it in tears.”
May the echoes of that cry carry us into a brighter new year so that 2021’s GALA flamenco festival can include the one element missing from “Intimo” — our heartfelt and grateful applause.
XVI Fuego Flamenco Festival: “Intimo”
From GALA Hispanic Theatre
Streaming thru Jan 15, 2021
Details and tickets
XVI Fuego Flamenco Festival: “Intimo”, presented by GALA Hispanic Theatre. Co-directors and performers: Edwin Aparicio and Omayra Amaya. Co-musical direction and guitar: Roberto Castellon and Ricardo Marlow. Percussion: Francisco Orozco “Yiyi” and Jose Moreno. Vocals: Francisco Orozco “Yiyi.” Producer: Hugo Medrano. Production manager: Tony Koehler. Technical director: David Phelps. Lighting and projections designer: Christopher Annas-Lee. Sound designer: Brandon Cook. Associate projections designer: Hailey LaRoe. Master electrician: Alex Keen. Rose Time-lapse videographer: Ajay Chaudhary. Reviewed by Alexander C. Kafka.