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DANCE REVIEW

Peña and Ogalla throw a flamenco party

August 16, 2007|Jennifer Fisher | Special to The Times

MAYBE nowhere in dance do emotions you think of as opposite come together with such riveting force as in flamenco: Performers are by turns furious and friendly, defeated or proud, sunk in gloom, then rising like the sun.

So, of course, sparks fly -- you expect sparks to fly with all that fierce footwork and the cascades of emotion. But the experience gets much deeper when you also get a sense of the original creative communities that produced flamenco, when today's theatricalized style captures just the right balance of music, singing and dance that can also embrace onlookers.

That's what the Compañía Andrés Peña and Pilar Ogalla offered Tuesday night in "A Fuego Lento" (At a Slow Fire), the second program of the Irvine Barclay Theatre's dynamic annual flamenco festival. They rocked the house with a smooth roller-coaster ride of refined and raucous flamenco that was short, sweet and satisfying.

From the opening silhouetted figures of performers strolling in for "Lumbre" (tangos), to the duet featuring a vibrantly alive Peña and Ogalla, through their several solos, the evening maintained a rush of energy that drew you in like a party where you were welcome.

Peña and Ogalla were perfectly matched in compact stature, both finding the balance between elegant choreography and spontaneous combustion. They seemed connected from the start, managing to be independent and aware of each other at the same time.

Then came a series of playful and powerful connections between each dancer and the three forceful singers -- Miguel Rosendo, Luis Moneo and David Palomar -- driven by the rhythms of guitarists Ricardo Rivera and Eugenio Iglesias and the palmas of Alfonso Carpio.

In his three solos (a farruca, martinete and soleá por bulerías), Peña's footwork perhaps spoke most eloquently, becoming a sort of monologue or conversation with the floor. In the dense clatter of patterns and rhythms, there seemed to be many changes of mind, something that also could be read into his musically matched, shifting turns and sways.

Ogalla, too, was at one with rhythms, and when she got going in her alegrías or taranto, she was simply sumptuous, a live wire with electric charm. Her footwork became a blur at one point, her shrug either a dismissal or an invitation, her "dialogue" with the three singers an outpouring of love or doubt as she led them offstage.

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