The flamenco performance by Compania Flamenco Jose Porcel, “Gypsy Fire,” was a more informative experience than I expected. Aside from the immediate artistic experience of flamenco dancing, the night offered some lessons in both cultural nuance and translation and language barriers.
“Gypsy Fire” was held on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Roberts Hall and is the third installment of the Rhode Island College Performing Arts Series. The show was built of 10 dances by the company, broken in half by an intermission.
The dances did get repetitive, and I felt there were two or three that could have been cut from the performance that would have granted the audience a more succinct and enjoyable show. Jose Porcel had two solo dances during the first half of the show that were painfully similar and could have been condensed. His technique and passion (emphasized by the sweat flying from his soaked hair) were admirable, but his footwork was only intriguing for so long.
The group of musicians and singers that accompanied from the back of the stage was delightful. Their shouts of, “Ole! Ole!” reminded the audience that there were real people playing the music, even though much of the time, they blended into the background as the dancers grabbed the spotlight.
My favorite dance was in the Rondena style. The three female dancers were dressed in flowing white dresses with full, red skirts. Material reminiscent of pubic hair was gathered at the front of the dresses, adding to the sensuality of the performance. The dancers kept rhythm with castanets.
The company has been together for three months, but Jose Porcel has been dancing flamenco professionally for 26 years. He has been with his company now for ten years. The group is now in the middle of a tour of the US and some of Canada that will conclude on Dec. 4th.
“Our company is located in Madrid,” said Jose Porcel, as translated by Raul Iriarte, a RIC Secondary-Education Spanish major. “Madrid is the city of opportunity for all things arts.”
Flamenco is from Andalusia, Spain, but has cultural hubs in the Spanish areas of Cadiz, Jerez, Seville, Cordoba and Granada. It is the dance of the gypsies, but none of the dancers looked like gypsies.
“Real flamenco is a family deal. You grew up with your aunts, your uncles, your parents and your grandparents singing, dancing and living flamenco,” said Kevin Gravier, a senior Spanish major at RIC.
Flamenco for the gypsies is similar to the blues for African Americans. It describes their life, pain, upbringing and economic woes.
“What I saw was a good representation of flamenco techniques, amazing dancing, great singing and good performance, but all together they lacked that familial unity,” said Gravier. “And that was proven when we talked to Porcel, because they’ve only been together for three months.”
Porcel apologized for the sweatpants he was wearing after the show.
“I’ve never been to a theatre dressed like this,” Iriarte translated. “We’d been traveling for eight hours, and we just got off the bus and came here.”
Sometimes Porcel’s productions have a plot, but this show did not. The dances were not connected other than in their passionate dancing and recurring performers.
Overall, the show was worthwhile, especially as a cultural introduction, and the repetitive dancing and not-so-genuine flamenco feel still offers an enjoyable show to viewers not personally familiar with the authenticity of the art form.