Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía’s “Metáfora,” which World Music/CRASHarts presented Friday night in its US premiere, is really two concerts in one. “Suite Flamenca” is more traditional flamenco “puro” galvanized by five superb musicians and anchored by the explosive dancing of guest artist Pastora Galván. The second half, “La Danza del Pensamiento como Metáfora,” is a contrived head-scratcher. While it features two fairly radical solos, it mostly feels canned, a series of large ensemble folkloric-flavored dances set theatrically to cheesy orchestral music played on tape. Though it is fun to see the full complement of 11 dancers playing castanets in one number, it totally lacks the intimacy and immediacy of the first half and seems overly ambitious.
While the two halves are jarringly disjunct, the aim of company artistic director and choreographer Rubén Olmo is to create a tribute to the legendary dancers who have helped transform the art form over the years while reflecting today’s influences as well. Even if one doesn’t recognize all the references, the show offers a little something for everyone.
The opening tableau of “Metáfora” is a knockout, with a draped swath of blood-red cloth seeming to unleash a sextet of women in long, flounced bata de cola dresses of pale green, their kicks and flourishes creating undulating ripples across the stage. Eduardo Leal and Patricia Guerrero are riveting in the dramatic “En Sueno,” which marries the molten posturing and sharp-angled turns of flamenco with the breathy suspension and graceful turns of ballet. Costumed in velvety black, Guerrero evokes the speed and precision of a jaguar.
Galván dances with an earthy sense of weight, hunched over, neck dipped, or arched backwards, head canted provocatively, her rolling hips and smoldering expression implying a bawdy sensuality. She feeds on the music, slowly gathering power like a tornado until, amidst a thundering volley of footwork, she playfully wags a finger at percussionist David Chupete as if to say, “Now you listen to me!”
The second-half highlight is the opening solo by Olmo. Beautifully executed balletic leaps, turns, arabesques and pointed-foot extensions provide connective tissue between segments of crisp flamenco footwork in a rhapsodic dance that seems surprisingly fresh yet satisfyingly organic.