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DANCE REVIEW

Danza Floricanto Brings a Memoir to Life

August 27, 1996|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

The Southland's Danza Floricanto/USA turned the norms of folklorico programming inside out during its cheerfully subversive 20th anniversary performance at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Sunday afternoon.

Where nearly every other company uses Jalisco fiesta dancing as its finale, Floricanto's "El Encanto de Jalisco" opened the program. Moreover, its pre-Columbian "Concheros" ritual not only came much later than is customary but also was offered as a symbol of endurance in a typically outspoken introduction by artistic director Gema Sandoval. "These have been difficult times for immigrants and the children of immigrants . . . ," Sandoval said. "For all of us."

If "Concheros" became a sustaining vision for embattled contemporary Mexican Americans, Sandoval's new "Boleros: Recuerdos de Una Morena" used her own life to dramatize some of the ironies and epiphanies of what her narration called "a bilingual, bicultural and hyphenated world." Reading that narration with extraordinary warmth and elegance: actress Angelica Aragon.

Most of this 30-minute suite featured fine accompaniment by the Trio Los Angeles, but the liveliest choreography came in a "Mexicoamericano" sequence performed to tape, while the most impressive dancing turned up in an "Agua Nieve" section with no music at all--just the ensemble's intricate step-rhythms.

Such highlights seemed worth preserving, but "Boleros" as a whole read much better than it played, filled with dances that depended utterly on the text and achieved no independent life or development. Consider it a piece for a special occasion, not a durable repertory item to be repeated season after season.

Repertory on Sunday included Sandoval's "Potorricos Nayaritas" and "Huapangos," both featuring the vibrant Mariachi Mexicapan and showcasing the full company in complex, fluid, large-scale choreography. By itself, the range of ages and skin colors within Floricanto made a statement about societal diversity that needed no text to explain it.

As usual, Francisco Sandoval's costumes made the Floricanto women into a living rainbow, and all the primary colors reached a blazing incandescence in the late-afternoon sun.

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