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Accent on Style in Benitez Flamenco Program

November 01, 1994|JENNIFER FISHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — Flamenco dancers seem to offer a simple three-step prescription for anyone who needs a formula for surviving a wearying world: Stare life down, rage a little and lament a lot.

With the five dancers of Santa Fe-based Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco, this prescription was offered with a lot of style on Saturday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. In several styles, actually, some of which stretched the form ably in alegrias, seguidillas, tientos and bulerias .

Benitez herself dwelt in the land of smoldering gesture. For "Aires de Silencio," hauntingly lit by Cecilio Benitez, she gathered despair in around her with languid or almost jerky sweeps of her arms. In her terre a terre dancing, there is a sense of hardship and weighted stillness--qualities also found, more frenetically, in the style of Alejandro Granados.

On the other hand, Ramona Garduno and Sara de la Pena used their torsos more freely, whether shifting curved arms on which circling hands became exotic birds, or accomplishing quick, shuffling stomps during which all darting limbs seemed to extend and return to grasp their ruffled skirts.

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Perhaps the most stirring extension of flamenco form (literally) came with Alfonso Simo Rodriguez's solo, simply called "Serranas." Less of a slave to traditional quick changes of temper, he extended stretched limbs poetically and sustained a melancholy mood.

He also had astonishing mastery of flitting feet and placid torso; one pass across the stage was so percussively intense, yet so hummingbird light, it brought the chills that come with admiring disbelief.

Enhancing various moods were singer Manolo Segura, sparingly but effectively used, and guitarists Chuscales and Arcadio Marin.

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