Flamenco performances have been unusually plenteous of late, but this festival is still the form’s can’t-miss event. On January 29, young Israel Galván strove to be modern, choosing a deliberately awkward style incorporating traditionally female moves, hip swivels, even disco pointing. Heartthrob Juan de Juan, in contrast, trusted tried-and-true theatrics—unbuttoning his jacket, abandoning it, loosening then tossing his tie. He delivered his rolls and rattles with winning swagger. In the second half, grande dame Manuela Carrasco displayed her generosity, letting a line of adorable aunties each take a turn. But the evening’s surprise came earlier, from 19-year-old Rocio Molina. Piking her whiplash turns at an improbably steep angle, she stayed centered. Self-contained, she entranced.
The next night Sara Baras chose a concert format that illuminated her talents better than last year’s narrative ballet. The lighting was unusually sophisticated for flamenco. So were the sound and pacing. The entire production was slick and seamless, centered in Baras’s jackhammer technique. By the end, she was aflame, letting another dancer spell her for only a moment, then jumping in again. Baras lacks neither spunk nor skill; she simply lacks soul.
Last up was the Compañía Andaluza de Danza, presenting Antonio Gades’s classic Bodas de Sangre with La Leyenda, a tribute to Carmen Amaya, one of the first bailadores to achieve international fame. Both pieces were lovely, particularly the former’s silent, slow-motion duel and the latter’s climax, through which two Carmens snake around in barge-length dresses. Yet in the narrative and ensemble work and the partially canned music, the best features of flamenco seemed to be lost. Then again, I was distracted: The lax late-seating policy is a tradition I could do without.