Dance Review: Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana at the Joyce Theater

June 4th, 2013

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Charo Espino performing “Cantiñas” during the company’s 30th-anniversary gala at the Joyce Theater.

For the company Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana to survive in New York, as it has, for 30 years, Carlota Santana, the co-founder and artistic director, must have made many sage decisions. But when the troupe opened its anniversary season at the Joyce Theater on Wednesday, one particular decision stuck out: her hiring of the dancer Ángel Muñoz.

At the start of his solo, Mr. Muñoz stood in a spotlight, snapping his fingers with authoritative cool. Following a burst of footwork, one of his wrists continued twisting, a sinuous expression of energy left over, as in an aftershock. When guitar and voice took up the song, Mr. Muñoz drew you into it, singing with his feet. Yet the greater excitement of his performance sprung from its impetuousness, its unpredictability, the sense of Mr. Muñoz’s stretching and squeezing his phrases in response to surging impulses. Sliding back, he nearly came crashing down.

Another wise decision by Ms. Santana: placing Mr. Muñoz’s solo at the end of the program. Everything that preceded it was fainter, more ordinary, despite the participation of four fine musicians (one of whom, Francisco Orozco, is both an accomplished singer and a percussionist).

The opening ensemble number, Antonio Hidalgo’s “Mujeres,” was flamenco tapas: small plates of fans, shawls, castanets, long-trained dresses, each variety sampled in a friendly, festive, handsome and generic presentation. In a duet from Mr. Hidalgo’s “Bailes de Ida y Vuelta,” he and the dancer Leslie Roybal inoffensively incorporated tango partnering into the side-by-side and face-to-face echoing of flamenco romance.

In “Luz y Sombra” (“Light and Shadow”), a two-part 1986 work by the company’s co-founder Roberto Lorca, who is now deceased, an ill-advised flamenco-with-strings recording hobbled the first section. In the second, Leilah Broukhim, as the Angel of Death wielding a fatal shawl, seduced Mr. Muñoz. The conceit’s protracted, melodramatic obviousness was redeemed, partly, by Mr. Muñoz’s intensity.

His wife, Charo Espino, came closest to matching him. Her “Cantiñas” solo was all bubbly, good-humored sensuality.

Mr. Muñoz’s own choreography, a new dance for five called “A Solas,” was impressive for its compositional finesse. The division of the dancers in threes and twos kept being shuffled: three facing forward, two facing back, the rhythm of three against the rhythm of two. At one point a group of three faced a group of two, and as they passed each other, one dancer switched allegiances: choreographic sleight of hand.

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