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The men take the lead in this Ballet Flamenco

Jose Porcel's entrance and final solo, and the dazzling moves of a trio of male dancers electrify the show.

October 28, 2005|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Making a spectacular entrance in a money-green velvet suit and matching boots, a snarling, sexy Jose Porcel raised the bar for nouveau flamenco Wednesday night at Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre. As frontman for Ballet Flamenco Jose Porcel -- eight young dancers and six musicians -- this 33-year-old Spaniard posed, preened and tossed off turns and taps like exploding firecrackers.

Attacking the floor as if possessed, Porcel, regally tall and agile, wove stories with his hands, lunged with shocking grace and executed razor-sharp turns, occasionally landing on his knees -- his acute sense of drama heightening every moment. It's unfortunate, then, that the troupe's four female dancers, with the exception of Leticia Calatayud, didn't come close to that kind of artistry.

But the 10-part program showcased a trio of men who, in addition to being Versace-ready with cheekbones for miles, moved like gods: Adrian Santana, Ruben Martin and 20-year old Angel Lara displayed virtuosic footwork crackling with polyrhythms. Whether taking solo turns in pools of light or trotting in unison to create a wall of stomping sound, these guys ratcheted up the testosterone.

In the opening, "bulerias," hip-swaying women appeared in purple dresses and shoes -- not a good look -- accompanied by the sorrowful vocals of Monica Mata and Gori Munoz. Soon joined by the boy brigade (sans Porcel) and guitarists Paco Vidal and Javier Fernandez, the troupe moved fluidly in groups of two and three, with Javier Vanduciel providing percussion.

Still, this was essentially flamenco lite (Fernando Bravo's flute noodlings didn't help), as were the women's other numbers, "guajiras" and "alegrias," the latter showcasing uninspired shawl manipulations.

A "Men of Flamenco" show might make more sense for this company, which will appear again tonight and Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Giving heat and heft to the traditional male "farruca," Porcel's whipping head-turns flung sweat with each thrilling rotation, his stage-skittering becoming a monument to technique.

Indeed, in his final solo, Porcel oozed duende -- soul -- becoming a blur as speed-demon taps shook his entire body before he slowed gradually to remove his jacket. Only then, arms outstretched to an audience gone wild, did he allow himself a big, beautiful smile.


Ballet Flamenco Jose Porcel

Where: Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Price: $20 to $65

Contact: (716) 556-2787 or

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