By Bill Garry
Photo courtesy of the Fountain Theatre
The Fountain, L.A.'s top 99-seat house, leads a double life. Besides original, provocative works of drama, the theater presents Flamenco dance programs at its intimate East Hollywood home and larger venues -- like the Ford Amphitheater -- around town.
"Reunion" was just one of a series of monthly performances, bringing a few older stars of Flamenco to the stage in an hour and a half of star turns. Reyes Barrios, Fanny Ara, Antonio Granjero and the band of veteran musicians may be getting a little long in the tooth, but they still delivered the energy and athleticism that Flamenco is known for.
Photo by Ed Krieger
And what skilled musicians! Watching Juan Moro's guitar-playing was as mesmerizing as watching the dancers downstage. Moro's big hands and long, manicured fingernails flew across the strings as he performed solo and with fellow guitar virtuoso Antonio Triana. Singer Antonio De Jerez performed his wails and warbles with infectious enthusiasm. (Did you know that Flamenco singing has its roots in Arab, Jewish, and Gypsy chanting?) I wanted percussionist Gerardo Morales to hand out drums so everyone could join in keeping time.
Except for the opening dance duet with Ms. Ara and Mr. Granjero, the show's seven segments showcased solo work with either the musicians or the dancers.
Ms. Ara's solo turn shook the stage in a graceful swirl of clicking, tapping and stomping. The audience fell in love.
Ms. Barrios, who also serves as Artistic Director, brought forth a beautiful, more subdued performance. Her whole body came alive with pivots, snaps, and hand turns.
The evening's showstopper was Mr. Granjero. His extended solo was a masterpiece of spontaneous combustion -- he strutted, he tapped, he flew. I could not help thinking that if Gene Kelly was a Flamenco dancer, he maybe would have been as good as Mr. Granjero.
Photo courtesy of The Fountain Theatre
A few quibbles: The show's set -- a long, low, library/Williamsburg bridge layout shared with the currently running "The Chosen"-- gave the show a feel of watching your parents dancing in a basement social hall. I would have liked to see more color-- banners, costumes, or flowers -- to add a little color and magic. Novice Flamenco fans, like me, are used to TV shows like "American Idol" which add a lot of theatricality to even the most mundane act.
But whatever this particular evening lacked in theatricality, it more than made up for in artistry and technique. I am going to turn off the tv set and watch more live Flamenco.