A neck injury to dancer Abigail Caro caused some reshuffling of personnel, but the new "Forever Flamenco" series at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood started off in a celebratory mode Sunday.
Singer Maria Benjumeda sometimes stripped her husky tone raw for the sake of intensity, but the playing of guitarist Antonio Triana (the series' artistic director) remained convivial and sophisticated throughout the evening.
Wearing long, fringed sleeves that amplified every bold arm swing or swirl, Yvette Garcia "La Sole" faultlessly executed elaborate heel-and-toe step patterns. But the sheer stamina of her dancing may have been its most impressive quality, for her "Tientos" solo allowed her no minor or easy moments.
Weighty and majestic, Lourdes Rodriguez danced at an imposing scale in her solo "Por Solea," focusing her attack on one thing at a time -- whether a sequence of accelerating heelwork or a dramatic shift in body sculpture. Only in a passage at the end, and a short, unexpectedly buoyant solo in Act 2, did she cut loose with gutsy overlapping effects.
At age 15, Ryan Zermeno "El Romero" doesn't yet have the adult face, arms or torso needed for flamenco expressivity. So, very reasonably, his performances Sunday emphasized high-velocity technique: brief, but forceful percussive explosions embellished with intricate trick-steps. His box-drumming in "El Toque" with Triana further displayed his energy and rhythmic agility.
Flamenco trios have often looked perfunctory at the Fountain -- collaborations with no real artist investment -- but the ones on Sunday boasted much more mutual interest and interplay than the norm, with Zermeno very attentive to Rodriguez and Garcia.
During the abbreviated second half of the program, the dancers invited audience members to perform brief solos. These guests included Daniela and Monique Zermeno (Ryan's sisters), Rocio Ponce and Susie Bartes. The series continues indefinitely on Sundays with different performers.