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¡Óle! In L.A.: 'Forever Flamenco' Wows In Its Sixth Year At Fountain Theatre

Claire Spera |
September 10, 2009 | 9:45 p.m. PDT

La Pamela
Flamenco fans will be entranced by the Forever Flamenco dancers.
(photo courtesy Fountain Theatre)

The first and third Sunday nights of every month, Los Angeles' Fountain Theatre is home to the Spanish dance series "Forever Flamenco." In its sixth year, this program gives audiences a taste of flamenco-gypsy life through passionate footwork performed by costumed dancers, and the live music of guitarists and singers. The Sept. 6 show featured three female dancers, guitarists José Tanaka and Benjamin Woods, and Spanish singer Jesús Montoya.

The Fountain Theatre is unpresuming: a run-down building in the midst of community housing. The interior, however, provides an intimate space to engage with flamenco music and dance. Best described as resembling an Andalusian tablao, or dance floor, the theater's seating goes only four rows deep, making essentially every audience member's experience with the performers an up close and personal one. The evening opened with a lively tango, in which dancers Arleen Hurtado, Pamela Lourant and Mizuho Sato each performed a mini-solo, introducing the audience to their unique styles and technique.

Over the course of the evening, the three dancers each took on a different palo, or style, of flamenco. Lourant, who danced an upbeat alegrías, demonstrated strong technical footwork, but came off as tame compared to the passionate performances that followed. Hurtado was anything but reserved in her tientos piece -- outfitted in a black, drop-waist dress with red flowers splashed across her torso, she maneuvered her limber body playfully around the stage, making full use of the theater's space. Like a rubber band, she stretched out her limbs and torso in graceful musical interludes, before snapping back into place to perform strong footwork. Between the first two solos, Woods played an intricate verdiales guitar solo, reminding audiences of the fast finger work that creates the music to accompany intense flamenco footwork.

Normally, sevillanas, a social dance done at gatherings in southern Spain, can be tedious to watch in a professional show -- flamenco aficionados know sevillanas is the most basic of the flamenco dance forms. Yet the sevillanas performed by Lourant, Hurtado and Sato was far from monotone. The dancers allowed the familiar music to aid them in showcasing their individual personalities when they each danced a copla (verse) of sevillanas, before finishing off the fourth copla together.

At the end of the production, Sato took the stage with a type of dance called soleá. Known as one of the most mournful forms of flamenco, as it calls for cante jondo ("deep song") on the part of the singer, the soleá centers on pain and loss. Sato's facial expressions highlighted a heart-wrenching sadness in the slower segments of the piece, and she kept audiences interested with her varied and lightening-quick footwork, which often employed the use of counter-rhythms and gave way to snappy turns across the stage. Her ferocity was evident, and it garnered her a standing ovation from the audience.

The combination of Montoya's soulful singing, Woods' and Tanaka's beautiful guitar work and the dancers' hunger to perform made for a truly "flamenco" experience -- a bit of ¡óle! in L.A.



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