A Compás (In the Rhythm)

October 24, 2009 3:04 am

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, October 15, by Karina for TKGO.

One of the nation’s top flamenco troupes—Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company—visited Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, and we managed to secure tickets before it sold out. Below are our reactions to the event. (Here’s a hint: We were mesmerized the whole two and a half hours.) To peek at what we saw, watch the video below (which isn’t actually from the show at Pick).

Tara’s Take

My flamenco background is by no means extensive—I’m the only one wearing a red skirt in a Northwestern University class full of black-skirted women and a couple guys—but it’s been a month now since the class started, and I know the difference between a farruca and a bulerías.

My Northwestern University flamenco class, with instructor Joel Valentin-Martinez (left), by Tara for TKGO.

Paco Peña’s was the first live flamenco show I’d seen, but because I’m the worst in the class, I do a lot of YouTubing. The show’s selection of flamenco styles all follow the a compás rhythm, a 12-beat measure with emphasis on the third, sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth counts. They stuck to a traditional range of flamenco music, but the dancers often added touches of Spanish ballet to modernize the show. They didn’t even stick to the program! The highlight of the first half was when Ramón Martínez took the stage by storm doing zapateado (“footwork”) in blood-red patent leather shoes. After the intermission, we saw Charo Espino’s solo performance, which in my opinion she was made for: Her impeccably clean but fluid arm movements only looked better with a shawl as a prop.

But the energy during Explorando el Compás was unmatched. Paco and the gang hammered on steel tabletops, clapped a jota, and hit the bass for the ultimate garage band sound. The best part? The improvisational goodie bag at the end, when the stout, gut-wrenching martinete singer, Inmaculada Rivero, took the dance floor in a messy, passionate, authentic close to the performance.

Karina’s Thoughts

My time spent abroad, as I’ve professed before, threw me into a love affair with all things Spanish. So when Tara forwarded me the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company performance information, I didn’t even double check if I was free. I would be there.

During the performance I was so caught up in the intensity of it all I was practically immobile. Charo Espino fiercely twisted her dress around and I felt caught between her ruffles. Ramón Martínez spun in repeated circles, beads of sweat flying from the top of his head in beat with the passionate cries of Inmaculada Rivero and I was stuck in his spins, her song dictating my emotions. Every element was enchanting, but Paco Peña’s guitar playing would have been an astounding performance on its own. He nimbly plucked the instrument, fingers expertly flying over the strings, and it was as though I was hearing a guitar for the first time. The guitar became a living creature in his possession, seemingly with its own breath and heartbeat. I have never felt, seen or heard Spanish guitar like that.

The show was so authentically Spanish, from the late start and lengthy intermission (but who wants to rush artistry anyway?) to the way every number seemed to devolve into an overwhelming and confusing cacophony, but then come to together perfectly, precisely right when it needed to (which is essentially a parallel to how I felt at times while living and studying abroad). Spaniards are passionate people, and Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company’s A Compás performance epitomized that characteristic.

-Tara and Karina for TKGO

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