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Dance Review

Youth Is No Obstacle to Flamenco Troupe

February 26, 2001|JENNIFER FISHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You have to find your soul to dance flamenco. You also have to develop the authority and technique to play with emotion--which is one of the things that makes young dancers so fascinating to watch when they take on the task seriously.

Several caught the eye on Friday night in a program called "Danzas de Espana--The Next Generation," produced by the Fountain Theatre at the Los Angeles Theatre Center downtown. The technical level of dancing was high among the nine young women, ages 10 to 21, most of whom are students of Linda Vega, who choreographed much of the program and also returned to the stage after a three-year hiatus.

But in addition to technique, the magic combination of command and appeal was especially strong in a few engaging dancers. Brittany Batastini, 13, always looked like she had a delicious secret she might let you in on. And in "Garrotin," 15-year-old Melissa Ornelas radiated mercurial charm. There was power in the way she tapped out rhythms, the way she swayed her hips and seemed to be her own master.

In fact, one of the best thoughts you eventually have about all these young dancers is a hope that their bold and lighthearted flamenco movements both reflect and create as strong a sense of self offstage. They all have reason to feel good about their work.

Vega and her guest, Oscar Nieto, naturally painted with a fuller color palette--Vega moody, insouciant and spirited by turns in "Guajiras" and "Aires de Jerez," and the likable Nieto impressive in his "Alegrias," with his traveling footwork phrases and arms that floated like a line of poetry. Their "Siguiriyas" featured much shawl-wrapping and posing, with more reliance on pictorial elements than movement.

*

Nieto sang for some of the dancers, but most of the vocalizing was done by Pilar Moreno, alongside exemplary guitarists Antonio Triana and Antonio Duran and percussionist Patric Oliver. Triana and Oliver's one, brief featured duet was memorably bracing and full of invention.

Pacing was brisk, costumes well designed and Vega's choreography excellent. All that's left is more soul-searching, and that's bound to be ongoing.

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