Flaming flamenco | Performing Arts Sidebar | Chicago Reader

Flaming flamenco 

New York's A Palo Seco brings the Zippo with "Rasgos Flamencos"

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Ruffles, fringe, and polka dots are pretty much guaranteed at a flamenco performance. What's harder to predict is whether the dance and music will catch fire. But when a company focuses on the fundamentals—and also on transforming the fundamentals—the way New York-based A Palo Seco does, ignition seems more likely. We'll get the chance to see when the three-dancer, four-musician group performs here in a program called "Rasgos Flamencos" ("flamenco traits").

The phrase a palo seco refers to the "a cappella" style of flamenco music, typically consisting of singing or percussion alone. That stripped-down aesthetic characterizes the ensemble's biggest departure from tradition, a solo by artistic director Rebeca Tomás called El Lenguaje del Abanico ("the language of the spanish fan"). Dressed in toreador pants, Tomás snaps her fan open like a switchblade or brandishes it closed. When the musicians fall silent, she exploits the innate drama of near stillness, playing with the sound of a fan lightly tapping, a foot scraping. Later, watch for Glenda Sol Koeraus—aka Sol, La Argentinita—dancing her take on flamenco's dark soleá. Traditionalists will not be disappointed.

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