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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

Jose Greco II, Company Man

Son of Famed Flamenco Icon Takes Troupe His Own Way Dance

January 30, 2001|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Still grieving over the death of his father in December, Jose Greco II sounds somber and a bit alone.

"It's a lot more responsibility now," he said. "I'm the one that carries the name totally, the male." As for running the company his father created in 1988 for him, that too has changed.

"Now I'm the boss. Things are not as easy as when I was just an employee. I'm much more mature and older, but not weaker, perhaps even stronger."

Greco, 38, was speaking from Hampton, Va., where his company was stopping before its appearance Sunday at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. Greco calls the program "Father, Always in My Heart, Always in My Soul" and prefaces it with a poem he wrote in Spanish to the famous dancer.

But things hadn't always been so happy between the two.

As the elder Jose Greco, who was born in Italy in 1918 and moved to Brooklyn as a child, built his dazzling international career, his touring took him away from his family so often that several of the children--Jose II included--grew estranged from him.

When they pursued dance careers, they did so apart from him. Greco said later that they never saw their father dance in person, only on film.

The elder Greco recognized their talent, however, and offered to include them in a tour when he was coming out of retirement in 1985. But they refused, and for years neither side would to talk to the other.

In 1988, however, the Greco siblings relented. They approached their father, who created a company for them. Orange County saw it--with Greco, Jose II and daughters Carmela, Lola and Alessandra--at Orange Coast College in 1992.

The son and the sisters danced Saturday at a memorial for their father, who died of heart failure in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa., on Dec. 31 at the age of 82.

"Probably that will be the last time we will do something for our father," the younger Greco said.

"I have my own career. My sisters do as well. Of course, everyone chooses his path. Not that we don't want to [dance together]. Perhaps we have found a wiser way."

Greco, also known by his nickname, "Pepe," actually isn't alone. He and his wife, dancer Cristina Godines-Greco, have a 3-year-old daughter who "loves to move," he said.

"She has a lot of energy, like any other kid. She loves watching her mother and her father. Whether she'll want to be a dancer . . ."

Godines-Greco also is executive director of the 10-member troupe, which includes guitarist Antonio Gabarri, who has played with Greco for many years, and guitarist Lorenzo Virseda, who played for Antonio Gades and Greco senior.

"They're great guys with a lot of talent," he said. "The ladies are fabulous. Little by little we're trying to make something solid."

Building the company is very much on Greco's mind these days.

"For the company, you want bigger, you want more. You have to work for that, sacrifice for that.

"As soon as I get the chance, I will do what I really want. But those things take time, money."

He feels ready to take on these new responsibilities.

"A year ago, I created a show called 'Reborn,' " he said. "Automatically I was reborn myself. I started to be myself. That show was like me breaking the chains of my old self and keeping in contact with flamenco.

"My dancing is still the same, maybe more mature, stronger, more athletic. I feel that now I'm really starting to let out my creativity."

In the face of these new endeavors, however, he faces challenges from such immensely popular flamenco fusion idols as Joaquin Cortes and Antonio Canales, who are blending flamenco with other dance styles.

"Flamenco right now has lost its compass," Greco said. "Totally, totally, totally. Now it's crazy. There's so much fusion. Young people are trying to follow anything that's been posed on the media. That's all the people have looked at before, so they're starting from there. They're going to get even more confused."

But he doesn't regard Cortes and Canales as enemies.

"We're friends. We're from the same school. We have come from the same roots, and that makes us artists with responsibility. But other people who are totally inspired by these people, what happens? They start from there, and that's not the way."

Greco believes flamenco will have to pass through the current cycle before it can become pure again.

"Ultimately, there's going to be a big cleaning," he said. "Sooner or later we will have to get back to our own canon. We will have to go back to our roots. That's where it all begins, the creativity.

Can he or anyone else help it along? "We can do nothing," he said. "But flamenco is so powerful, it automatically regenerates itself. It's happened before and it will happen again."

In the meantime, the level of interest for the real thing remains high.

"God bless America in that way," Greco said. "Americans are very big supporters of flamenco--thanks to my father, who opened the doors. We never have to forget that. Its popularity is tremendous. There are more and more aficionados.

"So this program is totally dedicated to him. It's thanks to him that I'm here. It's thanks to him that I dance."

*

Chris Pasles can be reached at (714) 966-5602 or by e-mail at chris.pasles@latimes.com.

SHOW TIME

Jose Greco II Flamenco Dance Company will appear Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. $23 in advance; $29 at the door. (714) 432-5880.

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