Review: Arte y Pasión’s ‘Colores’

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Arte y Pasion in rehearsal for ‘Colores.’ Photo credit: Facebook/Daniela Riojas

Despite artistic director Tamara Adira’s near disastrous decision to project works of art by local art luminaries as backdrops during the entirety of the show, Arte y Pasión gave one of their strongest performance in Colores, presented this past weekend by the Carver Community Cultural Center.

While much of the artwork featured in Colores may be quite splendid in person – there was Franco Mondini Ruiz and JD Morera among others – onstage it appeared garish, often clashing with the dancers and competing for attention. The stage here, really, should have belonged to the dancers.

In this latest production – a meditation on art, beauty, and our place in the universe, Adira has assembled a group of dancers and musicians from near and far that compliment each other better than any Arte y Pasión production in recent memory. Adira has never been one to hog the spotlight, and here she gives each featured dancer and musician ample time for them to explore their own choreography or musical compositions. The result is a series of beautifully executed and fully realized performances, each reaching an emotional climax that leave the audience more than satisfied.

In the opening number, Abre la Puerta, San Antonio’s own Chayito Champion and the San Francisco based flamenco vocalist Jose Cortes set the tone with an excellent a cappella performance set only to palmas or hand claps. Flamenco dancers Melissa Cruz (San Francisco) and Illeana Gomez (Albuquerque) give show stopping performances each time they hit the stage.

One of Adira’s strongest suits has been spotting and nurturing young talent and Colores is notable for its featured performances by modern dancers Stephan Gaeth, Rochelle Banuet, and violinist Darian Thomas. Thomas’s solo piece near the start of the show, La Folia, was simply stunning. Entre las Estrellas y el Agua, a conceptual piece choreographed by Gaeth, and featuring performance artist Daniela Riojas as the ‘Goddess of Time and Consequence,’ was only marred by the complicated backdrop.

The gender-bending and magnificent Angel of Gravity has never looked this good before, even though Adira and Gaeth, accompanied by Thomas and cellist Luke Bonecutter, have been performing this particular number around the city for several years now. While flamenco is best experienced in intimate venues, the modern choreography of Angel of Gravity was made for the theatre and finally finds a proper home in Colores.

In Brandenburg Concierto #3 and Movement #3 Adira pays tribute to her teacher – the late flamenco master Teo Morca by performing his choreography and showcasing her mastery of the castanets. Only four years earlier, I remember seeing Teo Morca dancing on this very stage at the Carver Community Cultural Center. His energy was infectious and it was hard not to feel the joy this man must have felt during his performances. Certainly, Adira has given a performance that the maestro would be proud of.

It was not until the second half of the performance that the show’s visual elements and performers finally came together. In one of the stand out pieces of the evening, also titled Colores, the silhouettes of three females, each dressed as a Minotaur, appear behind three separate screens. The visuals here are powerful. Together the three figures sway their arms seductively in various flamenco poses as a female voice, presumably Adira, reads through a poem. “The colors – the colors of all of us,” she can be heard saying. The segment ends as one of the three figures removes its large Minotaur mask revealing herself as Adira.

The final number sees Adira channeling masculine energies, accompanied by guitarists Luisma Ramos (Austin) and Alejandro Pais (Albuquerque), as she performs a Farruca titled Mi Sombra, Mi Luz. Here, Adira bares her soul and finally reveals her true colors. In previous productions, Adira’s strongest attributes have been her creative vision as director and producer with her own presence often overshadowed by the excellent talent she enlists. In Colores, Adira arrives as a dancer, surpassing the emotional intensity of her technically superior co-stars Gomez and Cruz.

It may not have been a full house on the Sunday afternoon that I attended, but the audience that was there, was fully captivated by the performance they had just witnessed.

‘Colores’ was presented April 9 and 10, 2016 by the Carver Community Cultural Center in San Antonio, TX.

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