It has been a varied and talented flamenco festival at GALA Theatre for 3 weeks in November 2022. It began with a memorable show highlighted by the voice of ‘Niño de la Isla’ and the Santa Fe infused influences of Antonio Granjero and his ensemble. It continued with the powerful male dancers of the Aparicio Dance Company and ended with the guitar led, original spectacle of ‘Alejandra’, produced by Flamenco Spain Arts & Culture, based in Madrid.
Begonia Fernandez Pellicer, the production manager for ‘Alejandra’, is a prolific veteran of the flamenco scene and one of the best-known voices for the art form in Spain. Having directed the Casa Patas Foundation over the years, she has managed to produce first class spectacles with innovative and unexpected concerts that have toured the Americas to sterling reviews and sold out houses. She specializes in converting small, traditional flamenco shows into interesting hybrids, infusing them with elements of jazz, ballet and classical music. This year was no exception.
Jose Almarcha, the guitarist, director and choreographer of the group, presented a spare, but highly skilled group that included violinist Fernando Clemente Lopez, the sole dancer Lucia Ruibal, singer Fabiola Santiago Castillo and percussionist Jonathan Pacheco Lopez. Almarcha performed a wide variety of classic tunes such as tangos, seguiriyas, bulerias and a farruca on the flamenco guitar with verve and integrity. At various moments in the show, he spoke directly to the audience about the artists and the production, an unusual welcome and refrain, which added warmth and informality to the show. Whereas the guitar pieces were stunning examples of the flamenco art, what was most impressive was the haunting, searing and melancholy interludes of Clemente Lopez on the violin.
Lucia Ruibal is an exquisite dancer, long, lithe and languid. On a number of occasions, she reminded this audience member of the legendary Sara Baras, mixing ballet, modern dance and moments of fierce intensity - a furious ‘zapateo’ and a defiant glare. Her performance in ‘Casa del Gallego’ with the lilting guitar, dirge like violin and melancholy movements embodied the ‘morriña’, the nostalgia all Galician’s feel when reminded of their homeland.
The most memorable moment for singer Fabiola Santiago Castillo, was when she both danced and sang a ‘zambra’ titled, ‘A Mi Bego’, where she combined a plaintive ballad and soft, alluring steps that highlighted the sensuality of her voice. Overall, the ensemble is a delicious treasure leaving this flamenco lover hoping for more and looking forward to the 18th iteration of this marvelous flamenco festival next year. There is no better exhibition in D.C. of flamenco’s variety, evolution and excellence than GALA’s yearly Fuego Flamenco Festival. Reason enough to support the Theatre.
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