To quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Applicable to almost everything, it’s particularly true of a flamenco performance; you can’t be sure the entertainment has ended until the stage is completely empty. FlamenColores, a night of song and dance from Spain’s Sonidos Gitanos, was filled with color, light, and life, from the moment the musicians walked on, to the very last group exit. Just when it seemed the show was truly over, on came Mayor Marty Blum and a group of past and present Spirits of Fiesta to honor longtime Santa Barbara flamenco teacher Linda Vega with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mar-a Berm°dez, artistic director and choreographer for Sonidos Gitanos, was once a student of Vega’s, and the reunion was a touching end to the night. After Berm°dez’s first dance, the melancholy and haunting “Con Ternura (With Tenderness),” she segued seamlessly into the seductive “Como la Retama (Like a Reed),” lifting her full skirts to her knees to show the movement of her flying feet, and swishing her hips to the enthusiastic calls of encouragement from musicians and vocalists in the background.
This lack of delineation between one dance and another gave the entire performance an organic quality, and gave audience members the sense that they were not witnessing a rehearsed concert but rather an impromptu outpouring of expression. It was clear throughout the evening that the artists were enjoying themselves, and their interaction onstage, at least as much as their spectators. The dancers danced for the musicians, the percussionist sang, and the musicians danced while playing, their whole bodies joining the synergistic flow.
This ability of each member of the company to take on any role-to play, sing, or dance-showed how much work, and how much talent, it takes to be one of the finest flamenco artists in the world. One of the best examples of this was the composer Jes°s lvarez, who delivered a hilarious imitation of Berm°dez’s hip-swishing dance at the end of the night.
Guest artists contributed expertise to the show: The sinuosity of Rafael Campallo’s upper body, contrasted with the precise staccato rhythms of his legs, left the audience breathless, and Pedro Carrasco’s guitar wove a spell of its own.
In Sonidos Gitanos’s last dance, “FlamenColores,” all of them took the stage together, fusing into one. The dark clothing worn by the performers seemed transformed into a blaze of exuberant energy, and the lyrics of the song described the effect beautifully: “The night is a feast of colors.”