BWW Review: Flamenco Icon Sara Baras Brings SHADOWS to NY City Center
I have seen many Flamenco shows over the years, but Sara Baras' SHADOWS, playing in New York City Center's Flamenco Festival, is the most exciting one I've seen yet. The renowned dancer/choreographer collaborated with lighting designer Óscar Gómez de los Reyes, and even alongside Baras' talent and presence, the creative lighting almost stole the show.
The opening piece, "Shadows," which premiered in Spain in 2017, began with the company in silhouette against a plain backdrop that periodically changed colors in ombré. The silhouettes allowed us to focus solely on the dancers' lines and the movements of their hands. They also grouped together to make beautiful dark shapes against the colorful background.
All of the dancers (four women and two men) were dressed in black suits for this piece. It was beautiful to see so many women on stage and in pants. The evening included a Farruca, which is a traditional Flamenco style usually performed by men. The entire night was a nice mix of tradition and modern innovation.
When Baras, looking younger than her 46 years, first entered the stage, she also wore simple black pants with a sleeveless black top and used only a black and white scarf as an occasional prop. The simplicity of the costumes didn't rob the piece of its dramatic impact.
I have no idea how it's done, but we saw six shadows of Baras simultaneously against the backdrop. The effect was mesmerizing, particularly when she created shapes with her arms and hands.
Before the piece was finished, it built to fast footwork alongside the percussionists and guitarists. Included in the mix was an exciting metal drum.
Baras' speed and clarity of sound are virtuosic, but her rests and pauses are as rich as her percussive moments. At times, a spotlight illuminated mostly her face and arms, creating extra drama.
In another piece early in the evening, Baras appeared in a tight, green knit dress, part of which was tied in the back at her hips. When she untied the knot, the fabric became a combination of a skirt and shawl that she could manipulate into beautiful shapes as she turned. The lights shone down on her in a way that sometimes created white stripes on the green fabric. This stripe effect was a visual feast when used again later on the entire company.
Conceptualized paintings of Flamenco dancers by André Mérida were often used as set pieces. In many of these, the dancers' bodies were filled with scribbled lines, which seemed to signify their movement. In one of the final pieces of the evening, Baras appeared wearing a jumpsuit with scribbled lines that looked to be inspired by Mérida's paintings.
An artist of Baras' caliber would only surround herself with other artists of very high quality. (She is such a star in Spain that a Barbie doll has been created in her image.) Her entire company of dancers was stellar - María Jesús García Oviedo, Charo Pedraja, Cristina Aldón, Sonia Franco, Daniel Saltares, and José Franco.
Equal to the dancers were the musicians, including singers Rubio de Pruna and Israel Fernández; Keko Baldomero and Andrés Martinez on guitar; Antonio Suárez and Manuel Muñoz "Pájaro" on percussion; and Diego Villegas on saxophone, harmonica, and flute.
Musical direction and composition were by Baldomero, and the striking costume design was by Luis F. Dos Santos. One of my favorites of these was a black and gray ombré dress worn by Ms. Baras that consisted of tiers of fringe moving along the spectrum from black at the top to white at the bottom.
SHADOWS plays at NY City Center March 7-10, 2019.
First photo credit: Sofia Wittert; Second photo credit: Santana de Yepes