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AUDIENCE REVIEW: The Enigma Underlying "ALMA" by Sara Baras

The Enigma Underlying "ALMA" by Sara Baras

Sara Baras

Performance Date:
March 23, 2023

Freeform Review:

Walking home from City Center after seeing "ALMA" performed by the master showman Sara Baras and her company in the 23rd Flamenco Festival, I was humming “New York, New York.” How odd I thought. Baras' musicians actually play their version of the 1979 song “New York, New York”; her dancers made a kick line, briefly. Baras seemed to channel Frank Sinatra, or, was it Liza Minnelli? Her show expresses the ALMA of a small-town kid who wants to be “the King of the Hill,” to quote from the lyrics of “New York, New York.”

The show’s surprise is Diego Villegas, a young musician who comes from Baras’ home town Cádiz. He plays a harmonica with a soulful lilt, later flute , and, finally, a full-bodied, passionate solo on saxophone. Baras joins him briefly to trade riffs. At the close of the show, Villegas, charms us again, dancing with a chin-down bashfulness, in the familial, bulerias style.

Baras has created a vehicle that has toured the world for 30 years, a vehicle far more polished than the more precarious, exotic, unpredictable flamenco I love.  Her seamless, powerful show with a range of flamenco palos (styles): Bolero, Sequiriya, Garrotín, Buleria, Rumba, Cana, Soléa, Jaleo, alternates between solos and ensembles, the dancers playing in front and in back of a silver beaded curtain which stretched the width of the stage. 

Baras drives her spectacle with an acute sense of her energetic impact. Her sound is precise and consistent; her trademark gestures — the wide open arms, splayed fingers, big hearted grin— work up the crowd, who stood, stunned, for at least 10 minutes for the end of the show.  If she turned, she made multiple, slightly off-kilter ones. She paused her wood-pecker knocks with a snap of the head to the audience, as though to ask ”What do you think?”

While flamenco often swings from introspection to extroversion; Baras seems to have opted out of introspection. She's done all her contemplation before the show begins, much as a Broadway producing team would. She delivers an immaculate show.



Deirdre Towers

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