|Isabel Bayón Company gave a virtuosic performance of the dramatic ''La Puerta Abierta.'' (Luis Castilla)|
A modern twist to classic flamenco
There is one stunning moment in Isabel Bayón's flamenco "play" "La Puerta Abierta" in which time seems to stand still. Right in the midst of Bayón's foot-stomping, skirt-flashing Alegria, the lights suddenly dim, the musicians freeze in place, and the raw joy of the dance is cut short by a keening voice from afar that embodies the pain and heartache of flamenco's long Andalusian tradition. Bayón's public mask of bravado dissolves into personal anguish - a hand to her heart, shoulders slumped, face etched in sorrow.
But almost as quickly, the stage light brightens, the playful music resumes, and Bayón puts on a smile and hikes up the train of her ruffled dress for another flourish. It is a fleeting dramatic moment that beautifully reflects the piece as a whole. The "open door" of the work's title is a metaphysical portal between the exterior face and the internal self, and in Friday's US premiere of the 70-minute piece at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, the exquisite Bayón seamlessly traveled between the two in a subtle, yet powerful dance journey.
In a more nuanced way, the work also danced between the ancient and the modern. Seldom in this reviewer's experience has flamenco resonated with such traditional integrity and contemporary immediacy at the same time. And as Bayón shifted between the internal and external, she shed a scarf and donned gloves, or traded a sheath for a flounced skirt, those costume changes done before our eyes a visual cue for her transitions between private and public personae. It was theatrical, yet fluidly organic.
Unlike the heated virtuosity of the tablao, with whoops and hollers and flamboyant footwork, "La Puerta Abierta" is more introspective flamenco. Though Bayón is an extremely solid technician, able to unleash a cracking fusillade of rhythmic volleys with her feet, it was her upper body that told most of the story. Thin and lithe, she juxtaposed soft curves and sharp angles like the crack of a whip, head snapping, torso shifting planes. Her long arms curled sinuously, carving spirals as she reeled through quick turns, hands flicking like flames and darting like fish. Flirtation simmered in rolling hips and shoulders. A flash of anger popped into a coiled fist.
It was the shifting tone that gave "La Puerta Abierta" its dramatic power. One minute Bayón was caught in her own thoughts, cast in shadows, lost in doubt. The next she was cutting loose in a traditional baile (dance), warmly engaged with her musicians, feeding off each other's energy. Her four instrumentalists were attentive and responsive, especially guitarist Jesús Torres. At one point it was as if his vivid guitar flourishes flowed directly from her rippling fingers.
Singer Miguel Ortega impressively stepped in at the last minute for an ailing Fernando Terremoto. His rich tenor was articulate and expressive, with just enough gravel to convey, as Bayón writes in her notes, Southern Spain's "tragic vision of life." At one point, he dances with Bayón, then gently slips out of her arms, leaving her twirling with the ghost of a long-lost lover.