A dark stage, save one white light, shining like a beacon from above, casting a circle onto the black wooden floor. Silence echoes off the stain glass windows, the rows of seats, and paper fans beating in anticipation, held by sweaty palms.
Then she steps in, and her heel drops.
The first beat, resounding in the cavernous space, then the second, and her face looks out asking,
As her fingers slice the air, breaking up the spotlight, she beckons us to join, surveying the dark, and lifting her skirt to reveal her voice.
The voice in her shoes.
Her song begins, and her call received as the spotlight widens to three guitars, singers, dancers, and a drummer, answering in kind as the music builds and all join in.
Welcome to the Story.
Welcome to Flamenco.
This week I sat in absolute awe, witnessing Noche Flamenca’s production of Antigona, playing at the West Park Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. While I am familiar with Sophocles’ Greek Tragedy, I have never seen this company, nor a stage production of the tale.
Their inventive storytelling, and powerful imagery sent shivers through my body.
“The themes in the work include catharsis, issues of dictatorship, repression, loss, the strength of family and female empowerment; strong themes not only in Sophocles but also in flamenco.”
I found that there were two main items that moved me to my core as I sat in the wooden pew: the total integration of all the artists on stage, and Antigone herself,
This was my first time witnessing her perform. I have read about her several times in dance reviews, and as she turned and commanded the stage, I began to fully understand the words typed out in magazines and newspapers.
Soledad, born in Madrid, has appeared as a soloist with countless dance companies, winning awards from over 15 different countries, including a “Bessie” for Outstanding Creative Achievement. Tonight her role wasn’t just as the lead, but also as choreographer.
As goosebumps rose up my legs, and I leaned forward in my seat, I knew my engagement was reflected by her commitment. She strode onto the stage, a Goddess alight, with one intention,
To tell the story.
And all were with her in this intention. All 18 bodies, whether creating from their hands, their heels, their guitar strings, their wailing voices, or their tapping fingers, all joined to create the world at the gate of Thebes.
And they danced.
At times, I felt I could do no more than just take in the whole, as each artist’s mastery filled the sanctuary. I marveled at the singer’s soaring breath control, the guitarist’s intricate picking, and the director’s creative staging.
Elements intertwined in fabric, masks, levels, lighting, language, and movement. I saw influence of traditional Greek tragedy to contemporary communication, jumping between chorus, duet, and solo.
If I isolated each of these things in the moment, I was lost.
The power was their integration.
I went from sitting forward, to exhaling back throughout the 90 minutes, slowly sipping a spicy ice tea and holding the sweating plastic to my skin to cool me down.
I was entranced.
Antigone entered the stage for her final solo in a long black dress, her exiled dance in a rocky cave. In a semi circle stage left, sat a line of men, awaiting her cue. Their intent and focus narrowed into her feet, her breath, and when she gave the signal, they exploded in song and rhythm, accompanying her dance. The timing was flawless.
There was complete connection.
Upon the final moment I leapt to my feet to clap, hands raised in appreciation as I shouted out, “Bravo!” My friends and I stayed rooted in our spot, even as the actors exited, and the audience left. The energy was buzzing through our bodies.
The energy of inspiration.
We went for food and drink, our impressions and observations spilling over like sprinklers in a summer backyard. The fire created now burned within our minds and planted seeds, wanting to emerge in our next projects.
What had we just experienced?
As I road the subway home in the urban July twilight, I read the program, and grabbed a pencil to underline the small black type:
“All aspects of flamenco – dance, song, and music – are interrelated and given weight creating a true communal spirit within the company: the very heart and soul of flamenco”
Each element indeed, all related to the whole.
So, in this moment of communion, what are you bringing?