Though it was cold and rainy outside on October 6, Intermedia Arts was filled with the warmth of Spain as Deborah Elias and her flamenco dance troupe took the stage for the final performance in a weekend run of Las Flamencas.
Elias herself performed three solo dances, which would have made her the star of the show if not for the intensely charismatic vocalist Vicente Griego, a New Mexico performer with astounding pipes and a manifest commitment to the art of flamenco. (The palpable joy in this national collaboration, as well as the fact that Elias has benefited from Minnesota state travel funding, is further evidence of how deeply misguided was the state legislature’s recent decision to suspend future funds for artists’ out-of-state travel.)
Las Flamencas, featuring Griego along with guitarists Gabriel Osuna and Trevor May, made clear that if you’ve seen flamenco without live music, you’ve missed out on an integral part of the experience. The musicians and dancers performed in close synchrony, evidently paying close attention to one another and mutually appreciating one another’s artistry. The appreciation was contagious, and the warm dynamic featuring repeated shouts of “Olé!” made the house feel full.
Flamenco is a rich and complex art, and Elias favors a fresh but fundamentally classic approach. The crowd-pleaser of the set was Many Carmens, Elias’s humorous take on the flamenco chestnut, featuring Rick Farrell as a smooth-chested Don José who’s overwhelmed by affection from six rose-clutching Carmens. I’d like to have seen more of this fine company, even at the expense of Elias, a performer who’s gifted and seems well-aware of that fact.
Griego and Osuna took the spotlight for a few songs dispersed among the dances, and both entranced. Griego, a mountain of a man who was sweating by the end of the first number, was generously demonstrative in a manner that made me wonder when we’re going to get a flamenco movie starring Jack Black—or, better yet, a flamenco movie starring Vicente Griego.