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A jubilant mood for the `Fiesta'

Danza Floricanto celebrates three decades with a colorful five-part program.

April 24, 2006|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Even if it had not been the 30th anniversary of the locally based Danza Floricanto / USA, there would have been cause for dance enthusiasts to celebrate Saturday: The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, located near Lafayette Park and formerly the site of the Ebony Showcase Theater, is now home to a gorgeous 400-seat space that promises to be a boon to hoofers of all stripes.

And although the crowd was sparse when company founder Gema Sandoval kicked off "The World of Dance and Its Colors" -- a series that during the next few weeks will feature Avaz International Dance Company and Anjani's Kathak Dance of India -- the mood was nevertheless jubilant.

It's unfortunate, then, that Sandoval's five-part program, "Fiesta Mexicana," which featured a cornucopia of traditional and contemporary music (sounding tinny and mostly on tape) and dance styles, wasn't always as exacting, exciting or enlightening as one would have wanted.

Which isn't to say that the 14 Floricanto dancers -- including Sandoval's show-stealing 10-year-old granddaughter, Mimi Rios -- didn't wear their huge hearts on uber-colorful sleeves (costumes by Frank Sandoval) and give their all. Of particular interest was "Bailes de Antano / Dances of Old," a restaging from 1990 that featured a suite of early 20th century waltzes and mazurkas.

The Spanish-influenced footwork, which landed in Mexico via Europe and found favor with the Mexican upper class, featured formally dressed couples dipping, skipping and cross-kicking in charming three-quarter time, the party atmosphere interrupted briefly by a trio of women singing a protest song.

Sandoval, speaking between numbers, explained that although Mexicans may be in the limelight now, the next 15 minutes would bring "another people of color" their moment. In the interim, guest artist Ismael Gallegos certainly savored his Warholian time: Filling the theater with a brilliant burnished tenor while dancers changed costumes, he fervently belted out romantic and up-tempo pieces that brought to mind a young Eddie Fisher.

"Huasteco" from 2005 also proved lively, if funkified: Circle dances and line formations, one-foot hopping and rhythmic heel-toe stomping provided terpsichorean zip minus Rockette-like precision, and Christie Rios warbled, albeit slightly flat, the soulful lament "Rogaciano el Huapanguero."

Completing the program was "Homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe," a limp showcase for Reynolds Wrap-inspired Aztec garb, "Huapango" and "The Charm of Jalisco," an infectious display of undulating skirt work and smooching-behind-serapes sampling of Sandoval's three-decade choreographic career.

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