Even with the celebrated "Flamenco Puro" in full swing at the Pantages Theatre, a return visit to Caltech's Beckman Auditorium on Friday by the Maria Benitez Spanish Dance Company proved a welcome addition to the dance season.
It also provided food for contrast. Set in the cavernous, nearly overwhelming Pantages, Flamenco Puro tries to break through the glossy theatricality that distances audiences from the origins of flamenco. In the more intimate, congenial setting of Beckman Auditorium, the Benitez Company gave a standard theatrical presentation of Spanish music and dance.
Benitez and her company certainly gave full value to their material. Rose Mercedes' balletic "Sonata" and a jota for Mercedes, Monica Flores, and Miguel Diaz imbued these traditional dances with light-footed, joyous elegance.
The mostly-flamenco program culminated in a jaleo that celebrated individual style. Benitez acted as catalyst with her characteristically commanding, high-compression dancing. Guest artist Eduardo Montero provided the surprise of the evening when this senior dancer met the strenuous physical demands of his farruca with youthful vigor and power to spare.
A finale showcased the subtlety and sly humor of Timo Lozano, the earthy power of Mercedes and the radiance of Flores. Superb accompaniment by singer Cuquito de Barbate and guitarists Paco Izquierdo and Guillermo Rios alternated with dreadful taped music.