The energetic program of dance that Spain's Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia presented at the TD Arena on Friday night was entitled Noche Andaluza ("Andalusian Night"), an adaptation of the company's much traveled Metafora, which has earned mixed but mostly positive reviews for the esteemed company in recent months. Friday's program played to a nearly full arena, or anyway the half of it made available for this year's Spoleto programming while the Gaillard Auditorium is undergoing reconstructive surgery, which was packed to the rafters. The company performed seven works on a bare stage, accompanied and sometimes joined on the stage by six musicians on a riser behind them.
In the first, "Buleria, Canela," as four male dancers preened and paraded like narcissistic bullfighters across the floor, dressed in silver-gray suits and cummerbunds, flashing the occasional red silk lining when they raised their arms high, matadors poised to drive their lances home.
The dark-eyed girls of "Cantinas de Coral" wove in among each other in a slightly more subdued play of passions, flipping the long trains of their green-blue bata de colas about like pissed-off brides, and whipping enormous triangular shawls across their bodies with graceful fluidity , sea-foam-colored raptors ripping apart their prey in smooth sighs of tightly choreographed violence. The dance here, as elsewhere in the evening, was a blend of classical flamenco — flipping, spinning wrists and more contemporary balletic moves, one of the company's signatures. The crowd broke like fleeing fish for the entrance of Pastora Galvan, outfitted in a salmon-colored dress a half-mile long, the train thrashing about like a landed shark, her every move screaming, "Look at me, goddammit!" Galvan's dancing was clearly more spontaneous and less choreographed, as elemental and as raw as anything seen on stage last night.
Flamenco purists call any changes or modifications a defiling of the millennia-old form, but my feeling is that a little pure flamenco goes a very long way. Without a clear narrative structure binding the work together, the repetitive, stylized nature of the dance — full as it is of zeal, and flaming passion — wears thin after the 1,000th stomp and thigh slap. The more wide-ranging choreographic elements of artistic director and choreographer Ruben Olmo's idiosyncratic vision for "Noche Andaluza" were, I thought, among its strongest — with the exception of Olmo's campy solo "Tientos, El Vuelo," in which he tiptoed, sashayed, and flitted as a bedazzled, bright green butterfly, coming off more like a over-the-top drag act in a backstreet cabaret than in a product of the tablaos flamencos.